Gophers head to Michigan

by Mark Mowery

After two consecutive 1-0 losses at home, the Gophers look to continue their success against one Michigan school while trying to break a losing trend against another. The soccer team travels to Michigan this weekend for two conference contests. The first, a 6:00 p.m. Friday match against Michigan (5-7-3 overall, 0-2-3 Big Ten) who the Gophers haven’t lost to since 2004 . The other, an 11:00 a.m. game on Sunday against Michigan State (8-2-4, 1-2-2), a team the Gophers have defeated just once since 1999. Hoping to rebound from back-to-back heartbreaking losses, Minnesota hopes to continue its strong defense which has allowed only five goals in its last seven matches. More importantly, the Gophers need to increase their offensive efficiency which has struggle recently, netting only one goal in the last three conference games. Both weekend opponents will present a challenge on the defensive side of the ball as Michigan and Michigan State rank second and third in goals allowed in conference play, respectively. Though both teams have asserted themselves as defensive squads, offense has been hard to come by for the two squads. While Michigan has allowed only two goals in five conference matches, the team has only been able to score two goals in response , explaining the winless conference record thus far. Michigan State, has posted seven shutouts during the season but has only been able to score four times in conference play . While last weekend left the Gophers wishing for a redo, there may still be hope for a repeat as Big Ten Conference Champions. Only three points separate the conference’s top five teams with four games left in conference play. The team’s four remaining opponents rank lower than Minnesota in the Big Ten standings with a combined conference record of 4-9-8. A strong start to the final stretch of the regular season, however, starts in Ann Arbor against a stingy Wolverine defense and likely inclement weather. Heavy rain is expected in Ann Arbor for most of Friday which might make it even more difficult to capitalize on scoring chances. Though the Michigan State offense has fallen on hard times, the Gophers will have to be aware of Laura Heyboer, last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, who leads the Spartans in the scoring with 19 points on seven goals and five assists.