Freshman Chloe Arnold women's soccer

Freshman Chloe Arnold dribbles around a Minnesota State-Mankato defender in the teams' exhibition match on Feb. 26.

Women’s soccer opened its season on Thursday with a narrow 1-0 loss at Missouri, a match that was highly competitive and even throughout.

The match remained a defensive stalemate until Mizzou’s Julissa Cisneros tapped in a scrappy winning goal in the 71st minute.

“It wasn’t a pretty goal, but sometimes that’s what it takes to win a game. You gotta give Mizzou credit,” coach Ross Paule said. “We had the better chances, I thought. After they put in a scrappy one inside the box, the game changed a lot.”

The Bluejays tallied three shots in the first half. In the second half, the defense was overwhelmed as Missouri put five of their six shots on frame.

Paule credits two main factors to Missouri’s edge in the second half.

Firstly, the disadvantage of being an away team in the COVID-19 era. Only being able to travel with 16 athletes means just five substitutes available for rotation off the bench.

“It simply came down to them having more players available to play. They had a full roster of 30 players to pull from. It was a lot more difficult for us to chase the game,” Paule said, adding these aren’t excuses.

With a full SEC season in the fall and three exhibition games prior to Thursday, Missouri had more recent prep for the game.

The Bluejays, on the other hand, hadn’t played a competitive match against another team in over 470 days. They haven’t even been able to practice outdoors since October because of Omaha’s recent extreme cold and snowy conditions.

“It was different because the space was so much wider than in the [Rasmussen Center] where we have been practicing,” junior defender Morgan Szarka said.

The Bluejays hope to improve their match fitness and spacing ability as they play more matches on larger pitches. Paule added that despite the loss, he is happy with the team’s performance and believes that the group is returning home with more positives than negatives.

“Overall I couldn’t be more proud of them. Sometimes walking away with a loss is good, and in this case, we walk away from this game better. I walk away from the game very excited about the future of this game.”

Last Friday the Jays dropped an exhibition match to Minnesota State-Mankato 3-1.

The Bluejays look to collect their first wins of the season as they open up Big East play this week at Marquette on Thursday before the home opener against Xavier at Morrison on Sunday.

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