COLUMBIA — The Missouri women's soccer team opened its season Thursday night full of promise.
The Tigers beat Southern Mississippi 1-0 at the Walton Stadium and played well against a Golden Eagles team that in preseason play narrowly lost to LSU 2-1 and beat Mississippi State 1-0, both on the road.
Missouri's forwards, senior Sarah Luebbert (Jefferson City High School) and Julissa Cisneros, connected on an early goal in the season opener after both started last season slowly in producing results on offense.
Luebbert, an All-SEC first-team selection in 2018, did not wait long to make her mark on this game. The 2016 SEC Freshman of the Year linked up with Cisneros, who was on the conference's All-Freshman team last season, just 1:13 into the game.
The Tigers forced a goal kick shortly after the visitors kicked off. Luebbert collected the rebound off that goal kick about 25 yards from goal, lobbed the ball over the last defender to the right side of the penalty area and right into the path of Cisneros. Cisneros responded with a clinical finish, sending a first-time lob back across goal and over goalkeeper Kendell Mindnich's head into the side netting.
"I saw her running in and the ball was bouncing," Luebbert said. "We juggle all the time together, so it was just like we were in practice. I just tapped it to her. I knew she was going to finish."
The pair struggled to get going in 2018, which was unusual for Luebbert, who scored a goal in her first college game as a freshman and had two assists in the first game of her sophomore season. She didn't record a point until the ninth game of the 2018 season, scoring two goals against Portland State.
Cisneros did not make a mark on the score sheet until the 11th game of the season, her sixth start, with an assist against Vanderbilt.
"I'm really happy for the two of us," Luebbert said. "I think it just took a little time for us to both figure each other out (last season), and I'm really excited because we've been connecting really well in practice, which obviously showed tonight against a really good Southern Miss team."
Luebbert led the team in shots with five, and put three on goal in 71 minutes of action.
The Tigers registered eight first-half shots while holding Southern Miss to one, but it was a low-angle shot driven hard and right at goalkeeper Peyton Bauman, who was forced to deflect it out for one of two Golden Eagles corners in the opening 45 minutes.
Missouri dominated the first 15 minutes of play, including the early goal, but the game evened out from there. Southern Miss had two shots hit the crossbar, and though Bauman, who made three saves, was there, the visitors not only had chances but came close to levelling the score in each half.
"The back four and the goalkeeper did a tremendous job, and it helped because we pressed up front a little bit," Missouri coach Bryan Blitz said. "It's a good result, to hang on. We suffered a little bit, and that's good for us I think looking forward."
A roster with plenty of upperclassman talent also welcomed 10 freshmen to the team this summer. Four played and one started, defender Caroline Lyman.
Bauman registered a shutout in her first start as goalkeeper for the Tigers.
The team also got 20 minutes from Grace Kitts and 12 minutes from Zoe Cross as substitutes. Both midfielders suffered torn ACLs that kept them on the sidelines during the 2018 season, and Blitz was excited to have both back out on the field.
The Tigers (1-0-0) head to Columbus, Ohio, to face Ohio State at noon Sunday. The Buckeyes, who were receiving votes in the preseason Top 25 poll, lost 2-1 to Louisville at home Thursday.