Long-range goal, late penalty kick lift Tigers over Murray State

Julissa Cisneros and Madison Lewis contributed Missouri’s two goals on Thursday.

After scoring the game-winning goal in Missouri’s 2-1 victory over visiting Murray State on Thursday night, midfielder Madison Lewis feels her age.

“I feel pretty old, a redshirt [senior], fifth year here,” she said.

Yet her age was the chief reason why she was the player to convert a penalty kick in the 80th minute for the Tigers. With the game’s result hanging in the balance, Lewis’ experience was key.

“To come up and take a PK in a really [high] pressure situation, you definitely want a senior to do that,” head coach Bryan Blitz said.

By placing her shot out of the opposing goalkeeper’s reach, Lewis ensured Missouri (5-0-0) emerged a winner against the Racers (2-3-0). The match drew parallels with the Tigers’ previous game, a double-overtime victory over Xavier on Sunday that was also decided by a penalty.

“I don’t think we ever rely on [penalty kicks], it’s just kind of a fluke,” Blitz said. “We just have to be sharper. Once we score, we have to find ways to put teams away and not just hang on and keep… letting teams back in to score.”

Much like their previous match, the Tigers started out with an early lead.

On a 12th-minute counter-attack, sophomore forward Julissa Cisneros received the ball on the right wing. Instead of passing the ball into the box, she opted to shift the ball onto her left foot and curl a shot into the top left corner of the net.

“I took the first step, and after that, it felt right to try to shoot it,” Cisneros said. “It worked.”

Murray State increased the pressure on Missouri coming out of halftime, peppering goalkeeper Peyton Bauman with a few shots from distance. Racers midfielder Symone Cooper managed to equalize from the top of the penalty area in the 55th minute.

With the threat of another overtime game looming on the horizon, the Tigers found a breakthrough in a mistake from their opposition. The referee called Murray State’s Izzy Heckman for a handball inside the 18-yard box, awarding Missouri a penalty kick.

Lewis stepped up to take it.

“We had some other players who have already taken them, like Sarah [Luebbert] and Julissa [Cisneros], and we don’t want to give too much information out about the same person who takes it over and over again,” Lewis said. “I was the next one up.”

Missouri wasn’t entirely satisfied with the victory, however. The Racers appeared to be the more energetic team at times, especially in the second half, partially due to the physical toll of Sunday’s extra-long game.

“[There was] definitely a little bit of tired legs, but we practice so hard in the summer for games like this,” Lewis said. “We’re ready and we’re fit enough to play every single game [with] overtime if we have to.”

Despite the occasional nervy moment on Friday, the Tigers have secured one of the program’s best starts in recent history with a five-game win streak.

Now, the team looks to extend its season-opening five-game win streak against Loyola University Chicago on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Blitz will expect more from his team then, because to him, the streak shows Missouri has barely started.

“Really, it doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “If you just take it by numbers, it’s 20% [of the season] so it’s like getting an A on your first algebra test. You still have the whole semester to go.”

Edited by Wilson Moore |wmoore@themaneater.com

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