Perhaps it should have been expected. On paper, Missouri vs. No. 6 Arkansas was always going to be a mismatch. But as the saying goes, there’s a reason the games aren’t played on paper.
If this this one had been, it probably wouldn’t have changed the result much.
The Razorbacks were simply too good for the Tigers, waltzing to a 6-1 win Friday in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The silver lining for coach Stefanie Golan’s side was a great team goal, capped by Cassidy Nurnberger’s clean finish off a through ball from Jenna McCormick in the 64th minute.
It was Missouri’s first shot on target.
Outside of that one fleeting moment in the second half, it was all Arkansas on its senior night. While several Razorbacks could be highlighted for their performances, two stood out above the rest — Kayla McKeon and St. Peters native Ava Tankersley.
McKeon doubled her season goal tally in the first half. She first got on the end of a half-clearance and fired it past Missouri goalkeeper McKenna Sheehan to give Arkansas the lead. About 20 minutes later, Tankersley found McKeon just outside the 18-yard box and she capitalized to make it 2-0.
Anna Podojil made it 3-0 with one second remaining in the first half.
Despite making a career-high eight saves in the first half, Sheehan was replaced at the break. Isabella Alessio was handed the gloves for the first time since Missouri’s first win of the season, 3-1 over Indiana State.
The change made little difference.
Tankersley got her second assist of the night on Arkansas’ fourth goal. She played it to Kiley Dulaney, who made no mistake on the finish.
The Razorbacks added two more for good measure, one from Dulaney and a rocket from about 25 yards from Parker Goins.
Tthe Tigers put up a respectable fight against a true national-title contender, but the quality simply wasn’t there. Missouri never stopped playing, but the score was never going to be a nice picture when the Razorbacks were at their best, which they were for all but one moment Friday.
One positive Missouri can take is the return of three suspended players. Five players were suspended for seven days for violating department policy, and three of them — who were not immediately identified by Golan after the Georgia match — made their first appearances since the 5-0 loss to Vanderbilt.
But that may be the only positive for a Tigers side whose SEC Tournament hopes continue to fade. Missouri came into the night in 13th in the SEC, needing to finish at least 10th to qualify for the tournament in Orange Beach, Alabama. Its final three matches against Mississippi, Kentucky and Texas A&M will be the measuring stick in a season of growing pains and sporadic success.
Arkansas’ six goals marked the fifth time Missouri has conceded four or more. While those stats highlight an area of necessary improvement in Golan’s future seasons, the Razorbacks could have hit the Tigers for more if it weren’t for the continuous interventions from center back Momola Adesanmi, who was far and away Missouri’s best player on the night.
But when Tankersley and McKeon play the way they did and Missouri gets outshot 28-4, there was only ever going to be one winner.