Gophers await

by Jim Schortemeyer

The logjam at the top of the Big Ten finally cleared out over the weekend, as Penn State beat Northwestern Saturday to clinch the regular season championship. But Minnesota’s postseason status will remain in limbo until at least Friday.
Although the Gophers were well out of contention for the regular season title, they did qualify for the Big Ten Tournament over the weekend. Sixth-place Minnesota’s seed in the tournament depends on what fifth-place Indiana does against Illinois Friday.
If Illinois wins, Minnesota will face Michigan, who they defeated 1-0 this year. If Indiana wins, the Gophers will face Northwestern, which beat Minnesota 2-1 on Sept. 27th.
“It’s frustrating because we didn’t feel that everyone was giving their best,” senior defender Jamie Wyffels said. “We can play even better than this. We have a lot of talent on this team.”
That pair of losses was followed by a hodge-podge of quality play and so-so showings. Minnesota won two games against Michigan and Michigan State before dropping two more against Ohio State and Penn State. The last two losses put the Gophers in the Alamo for making the NCAA Tournament.
“They really understand they were really close to having a season without much of a postseason future, and that hit them like a ton of bricks,” Montagne said.
After playing their best weekend of soccer, the Gophers are preparing for four must-win road games over the next two weeks. Montagne was reluctant to say that her team was on a roll.
“I said that after Michigan so I’m a little bit nervous,” Montagne said. “But actually, yes — right now we’re playing how we thought we would at the beginning of the season. I think we’re peaking at the right time.”
Given the boot
Senior midfielder Kelly Shea was wearing a protective “boot” on her right foot this weekend after partially tearing a tendon in the back of her leg three weekends ago, against Michigan. The injury wasn’t discovered until a week later against Penn State, when she was removed from the game and had an M.R.I. the next day.
After suffering the injury, doctors decided to operate on a shin problem called “compartment syndrome”, which had been causing Shea discomfort, while the tendon healed.
“Basically it’s a horrible pain in your legs after about 15 minutes of running,” Shea said. “Your legs feel like they weigh a thousand pounds.”
Shea — who described her role as being more defensive-minded — doesn’t have spectacular offensive numbers, but did start 52 consecutive games before the injury.
Shea was walking without the aid of crutches on Monday, and the current prognosis is for the cast to be removed on Monday, November 2nd. Minnesota leaves for the Big Ten Tournament on the 4th. At first, Shea was upset about the bad timing.
“It was pretty devastating,” Shea said. “One of my teammates talked to me and said you can be like this or you can get your head up. I’m trying to play one more game, and if not then, in the NCAA Tournament.”
Lee Player of the Week
Junior Nicole Lee’s point-scoring bonanza Sunday earned her Big Ten Player of the Week honors.
Lee knocked in two goals and had an assist in Minnesota’s 3-1 win over Illinois Sunday. She leads the Big Ten in points with 29 and is fourth on the Minnesota career scoring list with 80 points.