The Gophers women’s soccer team is no longer thinking about the conference title, which drifted out of reach last weekend.
They’re just trying to salvage a partially wrecked season.
After finishing last season with an 18-3-1 mark, this season’s 7-5 mark has come as a shock to the program. The Gophers (3-4 in the Big Ten) have lost three consecutive home games and sit in sixth place in the Big Ten.
“I would have laughed and said, `You’re kidding, there’s no way,'” coach Sue Montagne said. “When I think of the stats, I just get a sick feeling in my stomach.”
Montagne’s battling that sick feeling by getting proactive for this weekend’s series against Indiana and Illinois. She’s not desperate yet, but Montagne is inserting senior Corinne Bolder at forward.
The move gives Minnesota a frontline with junior Nicole Lee, sophomore Laurie Seidl and Bolder. Those three rank in the top six in Minnesota history.
Bolder is starting in a Big Ten game for the first time and isn’t looking back at the rough road Minnesota has traveled.
“What’s in the past is in the past, and hopefully we’ll win this weekend,” Bolder said.
The past bodes well against Indiana, which is 2-4-1 against the Gophers in conference play. The Hoosiers (4-2) have had some big wins but also some close losses.
Some of those big wins have been against teams Minnesota struggled with. For instance, Wisconsin and Northwestern both beat Minnesota at home; both fell to Indiana two weeks ago on a weekend which vaulted the Hoosiers to a No. 16 ranking.
Why are they doing so well? While their offense is ho-hum (it’s currently sixth in the Big Ten), the defense has been solid. Indiana goalkeepers have allowed the second-fewest goals in the Big Ten this year.
But the Hoosier offense isn’t without a little bite. Senior Tracy Grose is tied for the conference lead in points with Lee and Seidl. But beside Grose, Indiana has no one else in the top-10.
The Illini (2-4) are a very different type of team from the Hoosiers. While Indiana is defense oriented, Illinois seems to favor the offense.
Need proof? The Illini are ninth in the conference in goalkeeping and fifth in scoring. But that doesn’t necessarily bode well for the Gophers. Minnesota is sixth in both goalkeeping and scoring.
Sunday’s game will be the end of the Big Ten season for the Gophers, who have six games on their schedule before the Big Ten tournament.
For a team that once hoped to post 10 shutouts, retain its Big Ten title and make the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, this week has been a last chance for players to refocus on their goals.
“It’s been real frustrating after last season,” Lee said. “Our new goal is to win the next six games, win the Big Ten tournament and get into the NCAA tournament.”
Montagne and the rest of the coaches are looking forward to this last-ditch rebuilding weekend too.
“We haven’t ever been in this position,” Montagne said. “And I guess for all of us, coaching staff and the team, we’re going to find out what we’re made of.”