Minnesota escapes late season skid

The Gophers were 0-4-1 in their last five games before winning on Friday.

Junior forward Taylor Stainbrook dribbles the ball at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Oct. 18.

Melissa Scharf / Daily File Photo

Junior forward Taylor Stainbrook dribbles the ball at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Oct. 18.

Kaitlin Merkel

The Gophers soccer team broke a 0-4-1 slide at the end of the regular season with a 5-0 victory over South Dakota State University in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday.
 
The win was Minnesota’s first since Oct. 11 and its first in the NCAA tournament under Golan.
 
The Gophers’ five goals were the second most the team has recorded this season.
 
Minnesota head coach Stefanie Golan said the Gophers offensive attack found a rhythm again, which allowed them to pull out of their skid when they needed to.
 
“We had emphasized getting numbers up in the attack,” Golan said. “We were able to get behind [the defenders] a few times. … Our kids finished well and created a lot of opportunities along the way, and it was all a result of training.”
 
The Minnesota attack was led by junior midfielder Josee Stiever, who recorded five shots and a goal, and redshirt senior forward Taylor Stainbrook, who recorded two shots, two goals and an assist.
 
“Coach was telling us it was really important to take risks and to take advantage of every opportunity we had, and going out there, I think everyone was really confident,” Stiever said. “We knew that we could win that game.”
 
Heading into the tournament, the Gophers had 11 days to refocus themselves, and Stainbrook and Stiever were able to help the team right itself.
 
“You get certain people around the ball with one another, and the ball is going to move, and it’s going to do some fun things. The execution was on point,” Golan said.
“[Stainbrook] probably had the best game of her career, and [Stiever] was fantastic in the attack.”
 
Minnesota also bounced back on defense on Friday, recording its seventh shutout victory of the season.
 
Senior defender Haley Helverson said the team’s defensive preparation was key in the shutout.
 
“Catching them in that transition [was key] because we knew that they like to put a lot of numbers in the box, so keeping them away from that was really huge for us,”
Helverson said. “We were just very aware of the game plan and what we had to execute.”
 
The Gophers play a high-line defense, with defenders playing forward on the pitch to keep opposing attackers farther from the net. Golan said Minnesota’s defensive style kept the Jackrabbits off balance.
 
“It’s difficult for them to break down [the pitch] when they don’t have pace,” Golan said. “There was never any moments where you felt like they could get something, and to have that for a 90-minute game was a good feeling to have, and it’s hopefully going to build momentum going forward.”
 
The Gophers advanced to the tournament’s second round with the victory and will face Loyola Marymount University for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16.
 
After the team slowed down at the end of the regular season, Golan said she’s focused on getting the team to continue its momentum from Friday’sgame.
 
“At this time of the year, you’re not going to rewrite the script or anything. Right now it’s, ‘What do we have to do especially well to have success in the game?’” Golan said.
 
“You’re able to just refine … the pieces that you’ve instilled throughout the entire season and hopefully be able to execute it in a shorter amount of time to help your players be 
fresher.”