Defending Big Ten champs open conference with a bang

by Jim Schortemeyer

The easiest part of the schedule was supposed to be over by now, but with their 3-0 win at Iowa Friday, the Gophers women’s soccer team continued to make winning look simple.
The Gophers dominated on both ends of the field — as they had in earlier games against Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin-Green Bay — and showed no signs of a slowdown after losing their top two players from a season ago.
The Hawkeyes came into the Minnesota game undefeated, but with the Friday loss they dropped to 3-1-1. The Gophers’ record improved to 4-1, with their only loss coming in the season opener against Cincinnati.
Minnesota opened the scoring in the 15th minute, when junior forward Nicole Lee scored from the left side of the box for the first of her two goals.
Sophomore forward Laurie Seidl knocked in a corner kick to give the Gophers a 2-0 lead less than 20 minutes later, her ninth goal in four games. Heading into the game, Seidl led the nation in goals per game and was third in points per game.
Lee slammed in her second goal of the game from 10 yards out in the 64th minute.
Minnesota coach Sue Montagne said she was pleased with the performances of Lee and Seidl, who are trying to pick up the scoring load left behind by record-setting forwards Jennifer McElmury and Jennifer Walek.
“The forwards had players all over them,” Montagne said. “They had to play a very tough game.”
But they had some help, too; freshman Samantha Meyers, a high school All-American from Maryland, assisted on Seidl’s goal. Lee’s scores were set up by veterans Kelly Shea and Amy Koehler.
Iowa played a physical game, hoping to shake up the Gophers offense. The Hawkeyes were called for 16 fouls, and Jenny Sturm earned a yellow card near the end of the game.
The strategy didn’t seem to work very well, as Minnesota’s ball-control offense still generated some very lopsided statistics. The Gophers outshot the Hawkeyes 30-5, and goalkeeper Dana Larson was called upon to make just one save. Minnesota also had seven corner kicks to Iowa’s zero.
“We had the ball the majority of the time,” defender Erika Kruse said. “They weren’t in our area more than two or three times.”
The Iowa game was typical of Minnesota’s style to date — lots of offense, leading to little need for defense. Excluding the season-opening 1-0 loss to Cincinnati, the Gophers haven’t allowed more than five shots on goal in a game.
The Gophers visit Washington State Monday before returning home to face conference rival Wisconsin Friday afternoon at the St. Paul Soccer Field.
The Wisconsin game will be Minnesota’s third Big Ten conference game, and could go a long way in determining whether the Gophers will meet the goals they set over the summer.
“I’d like to see us repeat as Big Ten Champions and go undefeated in the Big Ten,” junior defender Vanessa Touset said.
The Kicks
ù Seidl, a sophomore, was an honorable mention choice for player of the week by College Soccer Weekly. She had hat tricks in two consecutive games, and eight goals on 12 shots overall. Seidl is the second player in Gopher history to score consecutive hat tricks.
ù Lee’s five goals this season move her into sole possession of fifth place on the all-time scoring list with 26 goals. Erin Hussey is in fourth place with 29 goals; Jennifer Walek is first with 60.
ù Minnesota will not face a ranked team until next Sunday, when they face No. 19 Northwestern. The following week, the Gophers run into No. 10 Michigan and eighth-ranked Penn State.