The Minnesota soccer team had the history and momentum to beat No. 14 Michigan and sweep two consecutive weekends for the first time this season.
In 42 seconds Friday night, it was all gone.
Defensive breakdowns and miscommunication in the middle of the first half handed the Wolverines two goals in 42 seconds, and that was the whole story in a 2-0 loss.
So Minnesota (8-6 overall, 5-4 in the Big Ten) was forced to salvage a split this weekend — which they did with a 3-0 win over Illinois State on Sunday — but the win and loss came in the wrong order.
“We’ve never beaten Minnesota in our history and that was a big hurdle,” Michigan coach Debbie Belkin said. “I wasn’t sure if we’d come out afraid or if we would set fire and be ready to play. We started off very well and the team just played. There were times Minnesota was in our end but we didn’t panic and we had some good performances.”
The first goal came in the 20th minute, when a corner kick by Emily Schmitt was deflected in front of the Minnesota net. After some confusion and a scramble in front of the Minnesota net, Kacy Beitel banged it home for a 1-0 lead.
Immediately after the ensuing kick off, a Minnesota turnover gave the ball back to Beitel, who fed Abby Crumpton just past midfield. Crumpton split between two Minnesota defenders and was all alone against Gophers goalie Julie Eibensteiner. Eibensteiner got part of her hand on Crumpton’s shot, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the shot from dribbling into the left side of the net.
Forty-two seconds, two Minnesota breakdowns, two Michigan goals, 2-0.
“It was just a lack of communication,” junior midfielder Erin Holland said. “I have a lot of confidence in our defenders and they’ve always been known to step to the ball hard. There’s a bit of hesitation.
“If you don’t communicate, you assume she’s going to the ball and you’re not going to the ball, nobody stops her and the players keep going to the net.”
Dana Larson replaced Eibensteiner in goal with seven minutes left in the first half. Larson held Michigan scoreless the rest of the way.
Although the Gophers didn’t score in the second half, they spent the vast majority of the time in the Wolverines’ zone. A Laurie Seidl header in front of the Wolverines goal hit the crossbar, and the ensuing header by Alison Rackley skimmed the outside of the net.
Minnesota was out shot in the game 24-14, and 10-4 in corner kicks.
“Our games with Michigan in the past have been close, strongly battled games,” Larson said. “Last year, both teams played great and we just got that goal and they didn’t. It went the other way this year.”
Minnesota dominated the Redbirds (12-1-1) offensively on Sunday, out shooting Illinois State 31-5 for the game and cruised 3-0.
Minnesota coach Sue Montagne emptied her bench this game, giving 19 different players time on the field.
Amy Koehler got her first goal of the season in the 26th minute after she got a pass on the left sideline from Seidl. She went untouched down the left side and cranked a perfect shot into the left side of the net.
Nicole Lee got her sixth goal of the season with four minutes left in the half, single-handedly beating two defenders and knocking it over Redbirds’ sprawled-out goalie Carissa Stewart for a 2-0 lead.
Jaime O’Gara added the third goal with nine minutes left in the second half, and Larson made five saves for the shutout.
But the team was clearly frustrated with their first-half performance against Michigan, which cost them another conference game and the confidence game.
“It was disappointing to lose to Michigan even though they’re No. 1 in the Big Ten,” O’Gara said. “We were going in like we were going to win and we should have won.”
Mark Heller covers women’s soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]