For the first time as a member of the Southeastern Conference, Missouri soccer will host its senior night knowing that its season will come to an end when the final whistle blows.
After seven straight seasons of qualifying for the conference tournament, the Tigers’ loss at Texas A&M on Sunday confirmed that Missouri would not be returning to Orange Beach, Alabama, for this year’s postseason. But against Mississippi State on Thursday, the team will have a chance to play spoiler while hoping to send its five seniors off with a win.
The most notable Tiger ending her career Thursday will be Sarah Luebbert. The Jefferson City native has spearheaded Missouri’s attack throughout her four years in Columbia, earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors in 2016 and leading the team in goals in both of her first two seasons. She enters her final game tied for seventh in program history with 29 goals.
Anna Frick and Peyton Joseph will also cap their college careers Thursday. The pair of defenders have been consistent starters and workhorses since stepping foot on campus in 2016, leading a back line that has kept the Tigers in games when the offense has struggled to convert. Frick has yet to miss a minute of action this season.
The other two seniors are Madison Lewis, a midfielder whose five career goals include a game-winner against Murray State on Sept. 5, and Izzy Coulter, a defender who has played sparingly.
On the other side of the Halloween matchup is Mississippi State, which needs a win and some help from around the conference to avoid a spooky end to its season. The Bulldogs have not made the conference tournament since 2004, but they did receive an improbable NCAA Tournament berth last year thanks to a strong non-conference resume.
MaKayla Waldner, a senior from Dexter, Missouri, is the Bulldogs’ main offensive threat with nine goals on the season. No one else on the roster has scored more than three, although Onyi Echegini is the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week after finding the back of the net against Louisiana State and Tennessee.
Missouri will once again start Gillian Schulte in goal as Peyton Bauman and McKenna Sheehan remain sidelined. Julissa Cisneros, the team-leader in goals (9) for the second straight season, has a chance to become the Tigers’ first double-digit scorer since Luebbert’s decorated freshman campaign.
Apart from redshirt junior Grace Kitts, the five seniors are the only players remaining from Missouri’s last trip to the NCAA Tournament, a double overtime loss to Kansas in 2016. With the memory of that season fading and the team missing the postseason for the first time in years, senior night could potentially be a changing of the guard for the program.
Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. Thursday at Walton Stadium, with the senior night ceremony set to take place before the game. SEC Network+ will provide a live stream, while SEC Network will show whiparound coverage across the conference.