The Tigers open exhibition play Thursday at Creighton
Aug. 12, 2008
COLUMBIA, Mo. - With less than a week of preseason practice under their belts, the University of Missouri soccer team opens exhibition play on at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 14 against Creighton in Omaha, Neb. The Tigers will then hold another exhibition contest at home on Sunday, Aug. 13 against Illinois State at 10 a.m. before opening the season at home against Illinois on Saturday, Aug. 23.
2008 Season Outlook
A year removed from its third NCAA Tournament appearance in school history, expectations are high for the 2008 Missouri soccer team. The Tigers gained invaluable experience and confidence following their double-overtime loss to eventual national champion USC in the second round last season. That experience and confidence, combined with the team's high-scoring attack, is poised to send Mizzou on a deep postseason run in 2008.
Head Coach Bryan Blitz, the 2007 Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year, enters his 13th season at the helm of the Tigers. He has the advantage of leaning on the extensive talent and game experience of six seniors - Janelle Cordia, Mallory Forst, Ashley Hamblin, Lindsay McCoy, Mo Redmond and Kat Tarr - to lead Missouri to the next level.
Goalkeeper Forst, who has started 29 games in goal the past two seasons, will likely see significant minutes in her senior campaign. Forst has a 7-5-1 record a year ago, while her 16 overall victories tie her for third in the Mizzou career record books. The versatile keeper can also play up front if needed, evidenced by one goal and three assists as a junior.
The duo of defenders McCoy and Tarr bring experience to Mizzou's backline. McCoy, who has started all but four games she has played in her career, played 2,011 of a possible 2,057 minutes in 2007 and led all field players in minutes played the past two seasons. Tarr, a 2007 Big 12 second team honoree, ranked fourth on the squad last year with four goals, the first four of her career. The speedy Tarr also ranked right behind McCoy in minutes played with 1,927.
Controlling the midfield for Missouri will be Redmond, a 2007 NSCAA/adidas and Soccer Buzz All-Central Region third team and Big 12 second team selection. A physical presence in the center of the field, Redmond is a three-year starter, who posted two goals and seven assists in 2007.
Patrolling the wing is Cordia, another senior midfielder. A hometown product in her final season, Cordia's playmaking ability and excellent services will help ignite the Tiger attack.
Up front, Hamblin will help Mizzou's powerful attack put the ball in the net. A versatile player who has played both in the back line and at forward for Mizzou Hamblin can set up others evidenced by her two assists against then-No. 1 Stanford last year.
Joining the seniors are six juniors who have started a combined 171 games in their careers at Missouri.
Sharing time in goal with Forst will be Tasha Dittamore, who posted a 6-3 record and a 1.21 goals against average in 2007. Dittamore started 10 games in net despite suffering an injury midway through the year.
In the backline, Crystal Wagner is another experienced member of the Tiger defense. The quick-footed Wagner has started all but one of the 38 games she has played, including all 22 as a sophomore.
Redshirt-junior Meghan Pfeiffer returns to the midfield with two years experience to her name. Pfeiffer, an All-Big 12 second team member in 2007, has superior heading ability and the speed and tenacity to battle for the ball all over the field.
Bree Thornton returns to the pitch in both the midfield and at forward after a sophomore campaign where she started the first seven games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. She posted one assist in her limited playing time but did notch 13 points as a freshman.
At forward, all eyes will be on Kristin Andrighetto, an All-America fourth team selection from Soccer Buzz, whose 14 goals a season ago were the most by a Tiger since 1999. Also a Big 12 first team honoree in 2007, Andrighetto already sits in seventh place in Mizzou's career points list with 50 after only two seasons under her belt.
Andrighetto's running mate up front, Michelle Collins, enters her third year at Mizzou on the heels of a banner year where she posted 30 points on 12 goals and six assists. For her efforts, Collins was named a NSCAA/adidas All-Central Region third team and an All-Big 12 second team selection.
A quintet of sophomores return for their second year on the pitch for Mizzou after impressive freshmen campaigns.
In the back line, Kelsey Stokes will help solidify an experienced team of defenders. As a freshman, Stokes saw action in all 22 games and earned three starts, including Mizzou's first round victory over Texas Tech in the Big 12 Championship.
The tandem of Krista Kruse and Brittany Hopkins returns to the midfield this season. Kruse started four of the 20 games she played in last year, despite playing some of the season with a broken nose. She posted three points on a goal against Iowa and an important assist in the double-overtime upset of No. 4 Texas A&M.Hopkins played in 11 games, including three starts, before a knee injury suffered on Oct. 12 ended her freshman campaign. Now back to full strength, she should see significant minutes on the wing.
Seeing action in all 22 games a year ago, Kari Adam will line up at both midfield and forward as a sophomore. Last season, Adam had a career game in the upset of No. 4 Texas A&M, when she tallied the Tigers' first two goals.
Alysha Bonnick rounds out Missouri's returning forwards from one year ago. Bonnick enters her second season as a Tiger after the most prolific freshman season in program history. She tallied 32 points on 11 goals and 10 assists, all MU freshman records, en route to 2007 Big 12 Rookie of the Year and Soccer Buzz Freshman All-America second team honors.
The addition of six acclaimed freshmen give the already talented 2008 Tigers even more firepower. Defenders Liz Gayer and Mallory Stipetich give the steady backline added depth. Gayer, a hometown product from Columbia, Mo., was the 2007 Missouri Class 2 Central Region Player of the Year. Liberty, Mo., native Mallory Stipetich helped St. Pius X to three district championships and added 124 career points from her defender position.
Kelsey Blincow, a midfielder from Lewisville, Texas, comes to Mizzou as a top-75 national recruit by Soccer Buzz, the 2008 Dallas Morning News Dallas Area Player of the Year and the District 6-5A Most Valuable Player.
Joining Blincow in the midfield is Hinsdale, Ill., native Candace Ruff. A three-time all-conference selection, Ruff helped Fenwick High School to three conference and regional championships.
Jessie Crabtree and Kendra Collins should see action both in the midfield and at forward in their freshman seasons. Crabtree, who hails from Marion, Ill., ended her prep career ranked 10th all-time in Illinois with 325 points on 142 goals and 43 assists. Naperville, Ill., native Collins, the younger sister of junior Michelle Collins, scored 13 goals and posted eight assists for 34 points during her senior season at Neuqua Valley High School.
Blitz and his staff have put together another challenging schedule that will prepare the Tigers for another postseason run. This year's slate features seven teams that earned bids to the 2007 NCAA Tournament and four contests with programs that finished the season in the NSCAA/adidas Top 25.
Mizzou`s home non-conference schedule features matchups with six schools, including 2007 NCAA participants Auburn and Illinois. The Tigers will also travel to the West Coast for games with California, another NCAA team from a year ago, and UC-Davis. The Big 12 slate contains an additional four programs that made the tournament last season: Texas A&M, Texas, Oklahoma State and Colorado.