Soccer drops two road matches to Big Ten foes

by Anthony Maggio

Minnesota’s soccer team lost two crucial road games over the weekend, dimming its hopes for a Big Ten tournament berth.

The Gophers (6-5, 1-5 Big Ten) lost their fourth game of the season by a 1-0 score at Iowa on Friday.

On Sunday, Minnesota saw its defense falter and give up the most goals it has all season in a 5-2 loss at Illinois.

“Our back is against the wall now,” coach Barbara Wickstrand said. “We’ve got to win the rest of our games and they’re not easy. We just lost to two of the lower teams in the Big Ten. They’re solid teams, but they had some of the worst records.”

Against Iowa (6-4-2, 1-3-2), the Gophers out-shot the Hawkeyes 9-7, but only four shots were on goal. Leading scorer Rachael Roth only got off one shot in the game.

Iowa’s Courtney Wilkerson beat Minnesota goalkeeper Karli Kopeitz in the 43rd minute off assists from Sarah Lynch and Katie Clymer.

Kopeitz, who suffered a knee injury last weekend against Michigan and didn’t practice until Thursday, was replaced by Marni Prall in the second half.

Against the Illini, the Gophers struck first with Roth’s ninth goal of the season in the 29th minute off a penalty kick.

It was all downhill from there.

Illinois (6-6, 2-3) scored 49 seconds later on a header by Tara Hurless.

Andrea Ridgeway scored for the Illini in the 41st minute to put Illinois on top for good.

Kopeitz was replaced by Prall after Ridgeway’s goal, still bothered by her knee injury.

Prall kept Minnesota in for a while, but gave up three goals within eight minutes to put the game out of reach.

Keely Dinse scored on a header in the 89th minute off an assist from Rebecca Dellaria, but by then, it was meaningless.

“In the beginning they played with more heart, more intensity than us,” Roth said. “We made a couple mistakes, and every mistake that we made the other team capitalized on.”

The Illini bombarded the Gophers defense, taking 25 shots – 15 on goal – to Minnesota’s seven.

The Gophers now are last in the Big Ten, and the best they can finish is .500 in the conference. However, they still face Big Ten powerhouse Penn State (8-2-1, 4-1).

“They’re definitely deflated,” Wickstrand said. “They know that we’re better than what we’re playing. They need to put it forth and find a way to win.”

Minnesota’s next game is Friday at UW-Milwaukee before playing at Northwestern on Sunday.

Vasiljeva wins meet

Minnesota junior Darja Vasiljeva won the Iowa State Invitational, pacing a pack of six Golden Gophers in the top 10 finishers in the non scoring women’s cross country meet in Ames, Iowa on Saturday. Vasiljeva covered the four-km course in a time of 14 minutes, 12.22 seconds.

Anthony Maggio covers soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]