Missouri soccer has been inconsistent as it nears the halfway point of the season. The Tigers have seen dramatic wins against Notre Dame and Miami but have also been thoroughly beaten by Illinois and Nebraska. Coming in on a three-match losing streak, Missouri hosts Tennessee at 3 p.m. Sunday at Audrey J. Walton Stadium.
The Volunteers come into the match at 8-1, only losing 3-1 to No. 16 Arkansas, and receiving 35 votes for the Top 25.
There are several question marks for the hosts coming in, and with an 0-2 start to conference play, the Tigers need to find the answers quickly.
Who starts in goal?
Preferred starting goalkeeper Sophia Worth is unlikely to play following an injury in the 2-1 loss to Alabama, though the extent of the injury hasn’t been announced. That leaves coach Stefanie Golan with three options to start in goal — McKenna Sheehan, Isabella Alessio and Bella Hollenbach.
Hollenbach, a freshman, has yet to see the field this season, so it’s unlikely that she’ll be thrown into the deep end of SEC play, especially with the Tigers needing a win to avoid an 0-3 start in SEC play. That leaves Golan with Alessio and Sheehan.
Sheehan was called upon Thursday when Worth went down clutching her leg, so that may indicate that she will get the start in the No. 1 spot. Alessio, however, has played more minutes over the course of the season — 197 compared to Sheehan’s 85.
How will the defense stop the Volunteers attack?
Missouri has been inconsistent on defense throughout the season. After allowing nine goals in the first two games, the Tigers’ back four appeared to steady the ship, which was a major factor in the team’s four-match win streak.
Then they conceded seven goals to BYU, and progress appeared to have been lost. MU’s backline has looked strong at times since the beginning of SEC play, but has conceded a winner in the 85th minute or later in both of the previous two matches.
Tennessee comes into the match boasting a plus-23 goal difference, but has been shakier since SEC play began. Its two conference matches have been against teams ranked in the Top 25. The Tigers’ counterattacking style of play could frustrate the Volunteers’ attack, but it’s a tall order.
Taylor Huff has six goals in nine matches for the Volunteers. With her two assists, she nearly averages one goal contribution per game. But she isn’t the only attacker to worry about.
The Volunteers have 27 goals shared by 12 players. Mackenzie George’s five assists lead the team, so she is a threat to provide and score herself.
How to break down the Tennessee defense?
MU comes in with 14 goals scored from eight different scorers, with Milena Fischer leading with four. However, the Tigers haven’t faced a team with Tennessee’s defense.
The Volunteers have only conceded four goals this season, all in SEC play, against No. 16 Arkansas and No. 11 Auburn, a world away from Missouri’s 23.
Tennessee’s preferred No. 1 Lindsey Romig conceded all of those, but has an 85% save percentage and has 23 of the team’s 28 total saves. The Volunteers’ back four of Lawson Renie, Wrenne French, Tara Katz and Claire Rain don’t concede many opportunities, so the Tigers may struggle going forward.