Gophers advance to Big Ten semifinal

Minnesota defeated Rutgers 1-0 on Sunday in the Big Ten quarterfinal.

Forward April Bockin fights for the ball at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 16. The Gophers defeated Northwestern 2-0.

Image by Jack Rodgers

Forward April Bockin fights for the ball at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 16. The Gophers defeated Northwestern 2-0.

by Erik Nelson

Forward April Bockin proved Sunday why she was named the 2018 Big Ten Forward of the Year.

Bockin scored the only goal in the Big Ten quarterfinal, as Minnesota (10-8-1, 6-5-1) defeated No. 21 Rutgers (11-3-5, 7-2-3) 1-0. The Gophers advance to the Big Ten semifinal on Friday.

Head coach Stefanie Golan said she’s proud of Minnesota for pulling off an upset.

“This whole season, they’ve been right on the cusp [of victory],” Golan said. “The last time we played Rutgers, we felt like we could’ve won. Coming into this one, our team had the confidence that we could get this done.”

Minnesota was seeded as the No. 7 team in the conference prior to the start of the Big Ten tournament. Rutgers, on the other hand, was the No. 2 team in the tournament and also nationally ranked. 

Earlier in the season, the Gophers lost to Rutgers in a close 2-1 overtime match.

Bockin scored in the 88th minute, eliminating the Scarlet Knights from the Big Ten tournament in the waning minutes of the game. It was her 11th goal of the season and her first goal of the postseason. 

The hero of the game said she was surprised to get the ball on her foot. “The defender made a mistake,” Bockin said. “It was on my foot. I knew I had an opportunity. With time running out, I knew we weren’t going to get many more opportunities. I had to put it away.”

Players jumped on Bockin in celebration. Midfielders Emily Heslin and Molly Fiedler assisted on Bockin’s goal.

Heslin said it feels great to have another opportunity to play for Minnesota. “This season has been filled with ups and downs,” Heslin said. “To play Rutgers in the quarterfinals and get a win allows to extend our season — it means the world to me. I’m excited for this team to push for another Big Ten title.”

Goalkeeper Maddie Nielsen made four saves for her tenth win of the season. It was Nielsen’s sixth shutout of the season.

Minnesota will face Nebraska (9-6-5, 5-3-3) in the Big Ten semifinal on Friday at Grand Park in Westfield, Indiana. The match begins at 12:30 p.m.

Nebraska played the upset as well as the team beat Ohio State on Sunday in its quarterfinal game. The Cornhuskers were ranked No. 6, while the Buckeyes came in as favorites as the No. 3 team in the tournament.

Minnesota and Nebraska haven’t met in the regular season this year, but played last year in an overtime match in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Gophers got the only goal of the match in overtime for the 1-0 victory.

Golan said Nebraska plays a style that no other team in the Big Ten uses.

“We’ve got to be patient in our attack,” she said. “We’ve got to be aware of them on the counterattack. We can’t get lulled to sleep when we have the ball for long periods of time and let them counter.”