Top-Seeded Buffs Shocked by Missouri

The University of Colorado soccer team, fifth-ranked in the country following a record-setting regular season, was prematurely eliminated from conference postseason play in a shocking 2-0 loss to Missouri in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament at the Blossom Soccer Complex Thursday morning in San Antonio, TX.

Missouri scored both of its goals in the second half of play following a first frame which saw a scoreless effort mostly dominated by the Buffs. Colorado led the Tigers in nearly every statistical category as the teams' broke for halftime.

"They played with incredible emotion and like a team fighting for its life," said CU head man and Big 12 Coach of the Year Bill Hempen. "We played like we had nothing to gain by being here. I'm disappointed in myself for not having them better prepared."

The upset represents the first time in the history of the Big 12 Tournament that the top-seeded team has been ousted in the first round.

"It was frustrating, everything that bounced, bounced their way. They just wanted it more" said senior Fran Munnelly, who was named Big 12 Player of the Year Monday.

The defeat is arguably the most surprising and disappointing in the history of the program, following a regular season which saw the Buffs ran the table for a 15-2-1 regular season record, the best in its history. CU's 2003 effort was full of individual and team milestones; highlighted by a team-record 14-game winning streak which spanned nearly two months from late September through November.

Missouri's Elyse Nikonchuck broke the scoreless silence of a first half as the teams' exited the halftime locker room in the 50th minute. A Colorado foul just outside the top of the 18-foot-line set up a direct kick by Nikonchuck that sailed over Colorado's defense and over CU netminder Jessica Keller into the upper right 90 of to put the Tigers up 1-0.

Mizzou sealed the improbable upset when CU defenders Laura Munnelly and Ashlie Mihalcin collided on a Tiger transition. Missy Peabody served a pass to the Tigers' leading scorer Kristen Heil on a two-on-one in a play that resulted in a penalty on CU defender Darci Smerchek. With 4:38 on the clock, the awarded penalty kick that was successfully converted by Karen Bauer for the insurance goal.

"I don't blame Darci at all," said Hempen in response to suggestions that the sophomore's error may have sealed her team's fate. "She was scrambling to get back for the other player. I have no problem with the call. I would have expected it."

With the loss, the remainder of the Buffs' postseason is now at the hands of the NCAA selection committee, which will announce its 64-team bracket on Monday afternoon. The Buffs will begin Tournament play on Nov. 14 at campus sites across the country.


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