In anticipation of Mizzou's NCAA first round matchup with Evansville on Friday, I thought it would be fun and/or interesting to peruse previous Mizzou forays into the NCAA Tourney. First up: 1999.
Women's soccer at Mizzou had begun just three seasons before the 1999 Tourney run. Bryan Blitz, who had gone 45-44-8 in five season at Butler before being chosen to build a Tiger program from scratch, had shown steady improvement. In 1996, Mizzou's inaugural squad went 6-14. In 1997, 7-12. In 1998, a winning record--11-9-1. In 1999, a breakthrough.
Mizzou started 1999 with a 6-1 record. Led by Nikki Thole and Erin Grimsley, the Tigers were 11-3 following a 4-3 win over Iowa State. It was their sixth conference win of the season in seven games--the most they'd ever won in Big 12 play. A slump followed--Mizzou went 0-3-1 over its next four games--but a season-ending 4-1 win over Tulsa sent Mizzou to the Big 12 tournament at 12-6-1.
In San Antonio, Mizzou caught fire once again. Wins over Colorado (5-3) and Iowa State (2-1) sent Mizzou to its second straight Big 12 Tournament final. Of course, #4 Nebraska was waiting for them there, beating Mizzou 2-1. However, at 14-7-1, Mizzou was chosen to host its first ever NCAA tourney game. Drama awaited.
Mutigers.com: Marquette Outlasts Missouri 3-2 in Four Overtimes
The University of Missouri women's soccer team was defeated Wednesday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Marquette, 3-2 in four overtimes. The match, which was the longest in both programs' history, was decided in the 142nd minute when Marquette's Amy Hnatow scored her first career goal. Missouri's season, its most successful in history, ends with a 14-8-1 record, Marquette moves on with a 16-6-2 mark. They will travel to Clemson Univesity for a second round match on Saturday. Missouri junior All-Big 12 forward Nikki Thole scored both MU's goals. She ended the season with a school-record 23 goals.
"I feel sad for our seniors who founded this program," Missouri Head Coach Bryan Blitz said afterward. "But I am so proud of what we have accomplished especially with the adversity this team has had to overcome. I have never seen a chemistry within a team like what I saw from our team this season."
Columbia Tribune: Lights Out
As the sun set on Audrey J. Walton Stadium yesterday with the Tigers locked in a stalemate with Marquette in the fourth overtime period, officials were faced with a decision.
The first option was to suspend the game and move the team to the nearby baseball field under the lights and settle it with penalty kicks. Or they could let them keep playing until there was no more light.
The officials decided to squeeze in the final overtime period, which would force a shootout anyway.
First, the numbers began to disappear from view on the darkened pitch. Players could still see the ball, but only at close range.
Marquette was wearing dark jerseys so it made things even harder for the Tiger defense. With just under nine minutes remaining in the fourth overtime, a shadowy figure, which turned out to be Amy Hnatow, launched a shot toward the goal. Hnatow hadn’t scored a goal all season, but her shot from the top of the penalty area curled over the head of Tiger keeper Jackie Adamec.
Adamec could only watch as the ball found the top left corner of the net thus ending her Tiger soccer career.
Officially, both the Tiger keeper and her coach weren’t using the darkness as an excuse, saying that both sides had to deal with it — but both admitted the lack of light was a factor on the game-winner.
"I didn’t see it until it was in flight," Adamec said. "She just took a swat at it. I could tell by the spin on the ball that she just hit it to see what would happen and it caught the upper corner of the net."
Columbia Tribune: Shot in the dark
It didn’t look like a game-winning shot. The ball that twisted and spun off Amy Hnatow’s foot high through the black canvas that had settled over Audrey J. Walton Stadium looked like just another of the 47 shots that flew above and around the Marquette and Missouri nets.
As the record home crowd of 716 strained to follow its path, most managed to pick up the white sphere just as it squirted behind MU goalkeeper Jackie Adamec and nestled itself into the left corner of the net, officially ending the 141-minute epic first-round NCAA Tournament game.
While the Golden Eagles (16-6-2) rejoiced through exhaustion to celebrate their 3-2 quadruple-overtime victory, the Tigers (14-8-1) merely collapsed where they stood, a living embodiment of the phrase "leaving it all on the field."
Marquette made it 2-0 in the 53rd minute when Erin Morgan took a flip pass from Lannette Rossini and drilled it into the net.
That lead lasted just eight minutes, however, as Nikki Thole scored twice, once with a penalty kick, to knot the game at 2-2. Thole, still recovering from a separated shoulder suffered in the Big 12 Tournament final against Nebraska, led the Tigers second-half attack that had the Golden Eagles just hoping to maintain the tie.
While Marquette travels to Clemson for a Saturday night game, the Tigers are left to think about next year.
"Marquette was a worthy opponent that fought hard," said MU coach Bryan Blitz. "We knew down 2-0 it was now or nothing and we didn’t panic and played our blue-collar style and came back. Both teams’ legs were shot by the end and both teams played with pure effort and heart.
"It would have been easy for us to pack it in, but we didn’t. We raised the standard of excellence this year. I’m unbelievably proud of this team."