In Spite Of Postseason Ban, Mizzou Is Making A Statement
It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving when Missouri head softball coach Larissa Anderson had to have an unexpected video conference call with her entire team. She had devastating news to tell them: they were deemed ineligible for the 2020 postseason due to the NCAA's decision to uphold a ban against them. That meant the Tigers wouldn't be able to participate in the SEC or NCAA Tournament in 2020.
But, from the start Missouri has had to its 2020 campaign—a 9-2 record heading into the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic with marquee wins over Baylor, Minnesota and Oklahoma State, to name a few—onlookers would not be able to tell that the Tigers are simply playing for the love of the game this year.
"We're fighting every single game and we're proving to ourselves and to our alumni and to our fanbase that we're here to play ball," Anderson told Softball America. "We're going to put the best product we can on the field."
When asked how she feels about the team she has already watched overcome a tremendous amount of adversity this season, Anderson had one word to describe her feelings: proud.
In her second season at the helm of Missouri's program, Anderson knew her players had the chance to transfer, redshirt or even give up on Missouri's softball program altogether after the news of the team's postseason ban was announced. But instead, they did the exact opposite.
“I have 25 ladies that truly want to be here,” said Anderson about a team that is off to its best start since 2016.
And that sentiment has been exemplified by the Tigers' performance on the field this year. They have overcome multiple multi-run deficits, posted two run-rule wins and collected two extra-inning victories to date this season. Plus, Mizzou was the only Division-I softball program in the country to have five different pitchers pick up wins during the first week of the season.
"We're playing really loose and we're having fun and playing as a team," Mizzou's redshirt sophomore infielder Kendyll Bailey told Softball America. "We have no pressure on us at all."
The Tigers will look to take that mentality with them into another tough stretch of games this weekend. Missouri plays Arizona, Oregon State, UC Davis, New Mexico, California and Seattle at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic.
"We have something to prove," Bailey added. "We can't go to postseason, so we're playing every game like it's a championship."