It is that time of the year again my friends. Only at RMN do we preview things that are still months away (as you will soon start seeing for the rest of the summer). Even though Outdoor Track still has some action left to finish (including hopefully a national title for Chris Rohr), I am going to get a jumpstart on the reviews/previews beginning this week. For those of you not around last year (and we are certainly glad you have found us now), I take the summer to hit up each Mizzou sport, with the exception of football and men's basketball. It is time to bring some knowledge and attention to all of the other ones, and for those of you who have taken a special interest in any/all of these sports, PLEASE make it a point to comment and tell me where I am horrifically short of information and/or insight. My goal has always been to give these sports as much time and press as I can since I have a special appreciation for student athletes. Hopefully with more conversation, the more interest can be generated. I am excited to get started, as two of the teams I will opine about won Big XII Championships this past season. We will bookend the summer with them, starting with the Women's Soccer squad today.
First things first, let's take a quick at the numbers, including who and what is departing the Tigers in 2009.
2008 - By the Numbers
2008 Record: 16-5-2 (home 10-2-1, road 3-3, neutral 3-0-1, conference 7-3, 0-3 in OT)
Seniors Lost: 6 (Cordia-M/F, Redmond-M, Hamblin-D, Tarr-D/M, McCoy-D, Forst-G)
Goals/Assists Lost (of 50 goals/40 assists): 7 goals/11 assists
Starters Lost (starter=started more than half of games played): 3 (of 11 which meet criteria)
2009 Roster Breakdown by Year: 7 seniors, 4 juniors, 6 sophomores, 9 freshmen
2008 - In Review
Expectations were decent for the 2008 version of the Mizzou Tigers. Picked to finish 3rd in the Big XII and holding a pre-season ranking in the low 20's, Coach Bryan Blitz's team was expected to return to the NCAA Tournament where they had just fallen to eventual champion USC in a thrilling 1-0 2OT game. The team was still considered pretty young, but very explosive. Sophomore Alysha Bonnick led the way for the Tigers, while juniors Michelle Collins and Kristen Andrighetto took a little extra time to round into form. Junior goaltender Tasha Dittamore would be solid, pitching 10 shutouts on the season while playing almost every minute of every contest. The Tiger defense would be anchored by senior Kat Tarr and would welcome some highly acclaimed freshmen in Kendra Collins, Mallory Stipetich and Kelsey Blincow.
Mizzou played a solid non-conference schedule, as they typically do, and did...alright. They started the season with an OT loss to Illinois (not the last time that will happen) before getting their first win against Auburn. A trip west would see a split, losing against a ranked Cal team before beating E. Washington. Returning home at 2-2, Mizzou picked it up, taking down another SEC school in Vandy before closing out the pre-conference schedule with wins against Butler and Iowa. As the calendar turned to the conference season, Mizzou would split their first two games, including a tough 3-2 2 OT loss to Nebraska. They then went on a nice run, featuring a 1-0 win against #15 CU and then two more wins before losing in OT (again) to #12 Okie State. Still right in the thick of the Big XII regular season race, Mizzou rebounded well, with big wins against Francis Marion (I still dont think it is fair for them to play against only one person, but what do I know?) and then a HUGE 3-0 shutout on ESPNU against #6 aTm. After another shutout against Baylor, the title was coming down to a matchup with UT, which the Tigers would lose 2-1 before crushing kU to finish the season.
As post-season began, Mizzou earned a #3 seed in the Big XII Tournament. Showing the ridiculous depth that the conference has, the Tigers would be paired against #6 seed UT in the quarterfinals. Texas, still ranked NINTH IN THE NATION had just defeated Mizzou not more than a couple of weeks before, but Mizzou would exact some revenge and move on to the semis. There, they would defeat kU in a penalty kick shootout to earn the right to play #4 seed CU (#10 in the nation) in the finals. There, they would beat CU for the second time this season, winning 1-0 off a goal in the 6th minute by senior Mo Redmond and holding on from there. The Tigers would get to host an NCAA Regional, where they earned a 2-0 win over Evansville in the 1st round. They would advance to play Illinois, who once again took down the Tigers in OT to end their season.
2009 - A Look Ahead
The off-season was pretty exciting for the Tigers. In January, the team got to go on a mission to Brazil and won two games. Later on, the team announced one of the largest signing classes in school history, with nine new players coming on board More about them can be found here. As winter turned to spring, and after sweeping their spring schedule (including a nice win over #15 Minnesota), Head Coach Bryan Blitz was rewarded with a contract extension, taking him through the 2013 season. The Tigers also welcomed a transfer in midfielder Michelle Makasini, who comes to the Tigers from the Tigers...of LSU that is. She will bring 27 goals and 14 assists in three full seasons with her and have but one to play, but she in clearly intended to be a big piece of the offense.
Speaking of offense, the Tigers return a lot of it. Bonnick, now a junior, has 22 goals and 14 assists in her first two seasons with Mizzou, while Andrighetto begins her senior campaign with 27 goals and will look to rebound a bit from an off-season in 2008 (where she was still second on the team in goals with 7 and third in points). Those All-Big XII 1st Team players will be joined again by senior Michelle Collins also brings 20 career goals to the table and hopes to be able to compete the entire season after being injured for part of last year. That trio, along with Makasini and other solid players (including seniors Bree Thornton and All-Big XII 2nd team Meghan Pfeiffer with sophomores Stipetich (a defender) and Blincow), should keep Mizzou in crooked numbers on their side of the scoreboard, and help cushion the loss of departed minutes-eater Janelle Cordia.
On defense, Dittamore's return in net is a big one for the Tigers. The senior has been through the wars in the Big XII and the NCAA's and should provide a lot of leadership in the back. The Tigers will certainly miss Kat Tarr, as she led the team in minutes played last season. However, some other experience will return in senior Crystal Wagner as the likely new quarterback. She will be joined by Stipetich (when she is not up scoring goals), junior Kelsey Stokes and sophomore Liz Gayer. Many new names will litter the defensive backfield for the Tigers, including heralded freshmen Kellie Gavigan and Sarah Thune. If there is an area where the Tigers have some question marks, this is it. However, I believe some of their experience issues will be offset by the fact the team is attacking so often during the game, and can rely on a proven Dittamore to make the crucial save.
The schedule is another tough one, but it should provide Mizzou some great chances to shine and grow towards the post-season. They will take on rival Iowa, who returns a lot from one of their best teams ever this season. They will get an NCAA Tourament team from last year in Long Beach State at home, while also travelling to take on UCLA who made it to the College Cup. They also get to start the Big XII campaign against 2008 regular season champ Okie State (at home on 9/27). They will have a weekend roadtrip to Austin and College Station (and Waco two weeks after that), while getting CU and NU at home. They will close at kansas on 10/30. The Big XII Tournament returns to San Antonio where the Tigers will look to defend their title.
Now for the meat and potatoes of this section...the guess about this coming season :-). Last year I did say Mizzou should expect similar success to their 13-8-1 NCAA season from the year before. They improved by about 3 games last season, so it looks like I shorted them a bit. As for this season, I think the offense will continue to be one of the most dynamic and high-scoring in the country. Their style of play should help to cover up some of the inexperience the team will have on defense as well. I like the Tigers to be ranked all season long and to be right in the thick of things in the Big XII come the middle/late October. I will be disappointed in anything short of a their third trip to the NCAA's, and really think (and this is without taking a look at any of the other conference squads) they should contend for both conference titles. Also, this would be a great time to get past the first two rounds of the NCAA, which they probably should have done last season.
And because this is a Monday Musings, here are just a few random thoughts:
- The bad news just keeps coming for the Mets, who now lose Reyes to a torn hamstring. I dont know if they can survive too long with all the continued injuries.
- I dont know that I have paid less attention to a NASCAR season since I started kind of paying attention to NASCAR
- I think Orlando will win one game back in FLA, but that's it.
- Well, that was great of Pittsburgh to make it a series against Detroit, but holy smokes was Detroit merciless on Saturday night. And it sucks that the Cup will likely be skated by the winner on road ice again this season.
- I really was pulling for Mine That Bird, but watching it live I thought he was moving too early. Great finish though.
- Nice comeback by US Soccer on Saturday after an absolute thrashing down in Costa Rica earlier in the week. That match was probably as bad as I have seen the US play in a decade if not more.
- Finally, the brilliance of Tiger Woods was on full display yesterday. I was not sure it could get much better than his approach at 17 with him tied for the lead. I was wrong as his approach on 18 was as sick and throat-cutting as I have seen in a long time. And I am sure he would tell us his game is not quite where he wants it to be.