With a chance to score a game-winning goal for Missouri in overtime, Lindsey Whitmore was dispossessed by a sliding Northern Colorado defender. The ball rolled loose in the box, a sudden victory there for the taking.
Tiger defender Grace Kitts grabbed it gleefully to hand the home team the win.
“I wanted to hopefully close out the game for us,” Kitts said. “So my mindset was ‘put it on frame.’”
Kitts struck with the inside of her foot and fired the ball into the top-right corner of the net, securing a 2-1 MU victory over the visiting Bears in the 96th minute.
After missing the entire 2018 season due to injury, Kitts has appeared in all eight Missouri games this year. But she never had a moment that announced her return quite like this one Sunday afternoon.
“It’s been a grind,” Kitts said. “Recovery is hard, but that’s what prepared me for this game. There were a lot of ups and downs in this game, and that’s what kept me mentally sound when it went to overtime.”
The ups and downs began in the 27th minute, when MU (6-2) was rewarded for its early control of the run of play. Just like Kitts, who has yet to start a game this season, the players who connected for the Tigers’ opening goal were substitutes.
Freshman Jadyn Easley threaded a cross between two Bear defenders and the goalkeeper, finding sophomore Skye Kingsley alone for a tap-in at the far post. It was Easley’s first career assist and the first goal of the season for Kingsley.
“A lot of different players came to play today,” Missouri coach Bryan Blitz said. “I think our bench was the one who carried us today, and we have to have that.”
As it has for much of the season, MU struggled to hold onto its one goal advantage, giving up an equalizer in the 40th minute when a deflected free kick slipped through the hands of goalkeeper Peyton Bauman. It was the fourth time the Tigers have blown a lead this season.
Given the way it dominated the first half, with a 6-4 advantage in shots and a 7-1 margin in corner kicks, Missouri was expected to retake the lead quickly after the break. But as the 90-degree Columbia afternoon wore on, neither team came particularly close to take the lead, and overtime beckoned.
Northern Colorado (2-6-1) entered Sunday’s match with an unimpressive resume, having lost 5-0 to Cal State Fullerton, a team that narrowly beat Missouri on Friday night. The Bears had also just traveled from Iowa City, Iowa, where they suffered a 4-0 Friday defeat to the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Nonetheless, the 1-1 tie persisted into the overtime period, when Bauman made a crucial close-range save against Northern Colorado’s Cara Quinn, the reigning Big Sky Conference Player of the Week. The ensuing Tiger possession would turn into Kitts’ game-winning goal.
“She’s done routine stuff and done all the nice stuff, but that was a game-winning save,” Blitz said of Bauman, who has had her share of bright and dull moments in her first year as a starter. “She did what we asked her to do and stepped up.”
Sunday’s game represented the end of the eight-game non-conference slate for the Tigers, who will begin SEC action at Mississippi later this week. MU and the Rebels will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday in Oxford, Mississippi.