Alert the X-Files. Call up Sigourney Weaver. Aliens have apparently kidnapped the Minnesota women’s soccer team and replaced it with a group of look-alikes.
That’s what it looked like, anyway. Minnesota had lost three consecutive home games leading into the weekend, but came back with a dogged vengeance in home wins over Indiana and Illinois.
Julie Eibensteiner, who made her first Gophers start Friday, had to make only three saves in Minnesota’s 1-0 win over Illinois. Much of that was thanks to a powerful offense and speedy defense.
“It makes my job easier,” Eibensteiner said. “It’s good when it’s boring.”
The Gophers’ lineup got a makeover after dropping two games last weekend. Senior Corrine Bolder started both games at forward, while Laurie Seidl was moved back to midfield and All-Big Ten goalkeeper Dana Larson was benched in favor of the redshirt freshman Eibensteiner.
“We feel like both of them are working hard in practice and Julie deserved a chance to start,” coach Sue Montagne said.
Montagne was impressed with the play of Eibensteiner, noting she made a pair of diving saves and was willing to come out of goal to take away troublesome balls.
Larson was back in goal Sunday against Illinois and faced a barrage of shots. She made 11 saves, looking solid in the 3-1 Minnesota victory.
The two quality performances from the goalies have not cleared up the issue for the team. Eibensteiner said she expects to share time with Larson.
As for the other changes, Seidl was less directly involved with the offense, but managed a goal in the Illinois game. She also helped defenders like Jamie Wyffels clear the ball off the Minnesota side.
“I like having Laurie in the middle,” Wyffels said. “The team has confidence in her ability to control the ball in the middle.”
Sunday’s game marked the final Big Ten game for Minnesota’s four seniors, whose departure could leave a hole in the Gophers’ defense next season.
Of the four — Bolder, Kelly Shea, Vanessa Touset, and Wyffels — two play defense. But Eibensteiner said she wasn’t overly concerned with the upcoming losses.
“They’ll be missed, but I’m sure the coaches have something going for next year,” Eibensteiner said.
Shea had to sit out this weekend with an injured foot after starting 52 consecutive games. Shea was hobbled by the injury suffered against Penn State last weekend.
The Gophers are hoping she’ll be available for the NCAA Tournament.
All four players were on the 1995 and 1997 Big Ten Championship teams, and have helped the Gophers to three consecutive NCAA Tournament bids.
After the game, the four formed a huddle on the field, and ended with hugs.
“It was kind of emotional before the game to think this would probably be our last home game,” Wyffels said. “The four of us have been through a lot together and had a lot of good times.”