By: Mac Whaley
In college and high school athletics, senior night can often be packed with some slight modifications and plenty of emotion. It certainly was on Friday night at Walton Stadium, but it didn’t affect how the Missouri soccer team played.
“It was definitely emotional, but at the end of the day it’s a game, so we have to come out and win,” senior Jasmine Johnson said.
“Give credit to the seniors. They kept us focused. That’s a big deal because that doesn’t always happen on senior night,” head coach Bryan Blitz said following the 2-1 victory over Vanderbilt.
“The seniors are a great group of leaders. I came in last semester and they welcomed me and made my transition so easy. I’m glad we got to win on this night to honor them because they are a great group of girls,” freshman Sarah Luebbert said.
The Tigers (5-2-1, 10-4-1) relied on another outstanding defensive effort and the athleticism of Luebbert in the win, who provided both goals.. It didn’t take long, as she raced up the sideline and scored in the 30th minute of the first half.
“I took the header and the space that they gave me and finished it [the way we do] in practice. On the second one, Kait[lyn Clark] gave me a great diagonal and I was just the right place at the right time” Luebbert said of her scores, the second coming in the 38th minute of the second half. After her second goal of the night, and ninth of the year, Luebbert tied for the most points in a single season (21) since Alysha Bonnick (’10) did it in 2006.
“[Sarah] is kid who comes early and stays after. She’s always asking to do more. It’s a philosophy that our seniors have. She sees [them] do it,” Coach Blitz said. “We were disappointed with how our season went last year and I think these seniors are like ‘we have to work harder and we have to do more.’ I think it’s a model that says ‘hey, they’re doing it. Our oldest players are our captains, so this is what I have to do.’”
“I think we are in a really good place. We are starting to peak with our style of play. That’s what you want going towards the end of the season. We’re getting ready for the postseason,” Luebbert said.
“I think we’re starting to play our best soccer at the end of the year. We’re obviously getting better but we’re going to be tested by the best,” Coach Blitz added. The Tigers travel to #12 Arkansas, who is in third place in the SEC, next Thursday.