TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Tonight was about as even a soccer match as it gets as Alabama hosted Missouri. Two teams looking for a winning record, each battling to go ahead, and each scoring a goal within seconds of the other was the sum of an entertaining SEC matchup.
"This was absolutely huge. Every point in this league is crucial," Alabama coach Wes Hart said. "That, combined with a couple good results in a row, the Utah Valley game and this game, hopefully keeps our psyche and our confidence up going forward."
There just wasn't any separation, even though Alabama, entering tonight with a 5-5 record, had its best all-around player, midfielder Reyna Reyes, return to the starting lineup after a two-game absence for training camp with the Mexico National Team.
"She got back late last night from the Mexico trip, and it was huge for us," Hart said. "We love having just her mentality and her toughness around."
Sunday night was the Crimson Tide's last game, a 3-0 home win against Utah Valley, before it hosted Missouri, and Alabama began where it left off by pressing, playing penetrative passes, and maintaining an urgency Hart had hoped for as Thursday approached.
Upon halftime, though, tempo had slowed and there wasn't much to show for a quick start outside of building fatigue.
It wasn't until 20 minutes into the second half that a goal was scored, when Alabama midfielder Kate Henderson slotted her fourth goal of the season past Missouri goalkeeper Sophia Worth to give the Crimson Tide a 1-0 advantage.
Reyes was credited with the assist.
Only problem with that, though, was the Missouri side equalized within seconds. Literally. Tigers forward Jadyn Easley broke out on the counter attack and beat Tide keeper McKinley Crone to even things up.
"We have not been getting the results that we needed, and just capitalizing on the win and not shutting off and moping about them scoring right after we scored was so huge for our team," Henderson said. "It just shows people that we're not going to stop and we're going to come at you even harder."
That all happened in the 66th minute, too.
Worth, the Mizzou goalkeeper, suffered a leg injury just after the Tigers evened the score at 1-1. Play stopped as an ambulance drove onto the field to further assist the player and medical staffs from each school.
Soon after, after Worth was treated and taken off the field on a stretcher, the head referee blew his whistle for play to resume.
And as players fought tired legs late in the match, Alabama midfielder Riley Tanner made the play of the night and scored her first goal of the season to give her side the 2-1 lead with less than five minutes remaining. Forward Ashlynn Serepca was credited with the assist following a feed at the feet of Tanner, who finished the chance past backup Missouri keeper McKenna Sheehan.
Then, that was that, and with the win Alabama moves above .500 at 6-5 on the season.
"I'm so happy for her. It was honestly a relief that someone scored so we didn't have to go into overtime," Henderson said. "She's been working so hard getting assists for us, so it was time for her to get a goal."
Alabama finished with 11 total shots and six on target; Missouri registered 13 total shots with three on target.
Next up for the Crimson Tide is Vanderbilt (3-5-2). The Commodores host Alabama on Sunday at 1 p.m. CT.
"We aren't looking past them at all," Hart said. "Just because they haven't gotten the results, we're going into that game knowing that we got to be sharp and be at our best."