Missouri's freshman goalie, McKenna Sheehan, dives for the ball as Missouri's Anna Frick

Missouri freshman goalie McKenna Sheehan dives for the ball as Missouri’s Anna Frick and a South Carolina player collide on Friday at Walton Stadium. Sheehan saved 14 shots and successfully defended against six corners.

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Missouri soccer has been one of the most consistent athletic programs at MU since joining the SEC in 2012. Bryan Blitz’s team has never failed to qualify for the 10-team conference tournament in that span, but if the squad’s losing streak continues this week, it will be very much in danger of missing out on the postseason.

The Tigers, coming off three straight defeats that have slumped their conference record to 0-3-1, will visit Vanderbilt on Thursday before hosting Tennessee on Sunday at Walton Stadium. Failure to pick up three points in either match would leave Missouri well adrift of the top 10 with just four games left on the SEC schedule.

The Commodores won’t make the Tigers’ task easy Thursday. After featuring regularly in the national Top 25 early in the season, Vanderbilt has dropped out in the past few weeks, but still boasts a dominant plus-18 goal differential and the top scorer in the SEC, Haley Hopkins.

Hopkins’ nine-goal haul in as many games includes four game-winners, although she has yet to find the back of the net in conference play. Freshman goalkeeper McKenna Sheehan will be tasked with keeping her and the Vanderbilt attack under wraps Thursday, with first-choice goalkeeper Peyton Bauman set to miss her second straight game due to an illness.

Sheehan made an impression against the Gamecocks in her first career start with four saves, holding the No. 7 team in the country scoreless into the second half. A team spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that Bauman did not travel to Nashville, so the Tigers will turn to Sheehan to make her first road appearance.

Vanderbilt has been stout on defense, giving up just five goals all season while keeping eight clean sheets. Forwards Sarah Luebbert and Julissa Cisneros have combined for just two goals in SEC play for MU, with Cisneros enduring a scoreless rut that dates back to early September.

Another question mark for the Tigers is midfielder Lindsey Whitmore, who exited the South Carolina game with an injury in the 52nd minute. Whitmore has started every game this season and recorded three assists.

After Thursday’s matchup in Nashville, MU will return home for a Sunday afternoon contest with Tennessee, another team that has struggled early in conference play. The Volunteers have fallen a long way from their preseason No. 10 national ranking, and could come to Walton Stadium just as desperate as the Tigers.

Missouri and Vanderbilt will kick off at 7 p.m. Thursday in Tennesse, with the Tennessee game set for 1 p.m. Sunday. Both games will be streamed live on SEC Network+.

This article originally ran on columbiamissourian.com.


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