Shutouts, sophomores highlight early season

Zach Eisendrath

After sophomore Lindsey Dare opened the season with three shutout victories, Minnesota soccer coach Mikki Denney Wright said she felt it was time to see what freshman Chelsey Turner could do as starting goalkeeper.

The result for the Gophers (3-1-0 overall, 0-0-0 Big Ten): seven saves, one goal against and a narrow 1-0 loss to Missouri (4-0-0, 0-0-0 Big 12) on Sunday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in St Paul. The Tigers came into the game the 21st-ranked team in the country and are now No. 18.

“It’s never encouraging to lose,” Denney Wright said. “I never find encouragement; I wish I could. On any given day, we got to find a way to win these kinds of games, but I think there was a lot of good to be taken from (Sunday).”

Turner’s performance was the most notable thing to take away.

Denney Wright said Turner had been working since spring for the opportunity to start a game and proved that she was more than capable of filling the goalkeeper role with some big-time saves on Sunday.

Turner, the first goalie ever to win Minnesota’s Ms. Soccer Award, said being thrown into the fire against an unbeaten, ranked team, played with her nerves. However, the two-time all-state selection out of Lourdes High School in Rochester, said she was pleased with how she responded to the pressure.

“It plays with your confidence a little bit,” Turner admitted. “But (giving up only) one goal Ö I’m happy with my performance.”

Turner’s only mistake came in the 62nd minute when the Tigers’ Janelle Cordia scored an unassisted goal. Cordia launched a shot from outside the 18-yard box on the right side, connecting to the opposite post – too high for Turner’s grasp.

“It’s tough to lose a game like this, but I thought we did well,” Turner said. “We’ll only get better from games like this.”

Turner, who chose Minnesota over No. 7 Penn State, 12th-ranked Tennessee and Illinois, said she is learning as she goes.

“I’m just working hard everyday, just trying to getting better everyday Ö that’s my goal,” she said. “I can’t be satisfied with mediocrity.”

Learning from losing
Denney Wright said her team has a lot to take away from hanging around with undefeated Missouri. On Aug. 27, the Tigers dismantled Illinois – picked to finish second in the Big Ten behind Penn State – 5-0 in Champaign, Ill.

“I thought it was a great battle,” Denney Wright said. “I think we’re disappointed that we didn’t finish some of the (scoring) opportunities we had, but our team grew (Sunday).”

Denney Wright said Missouri put on the most ball pressure against Minnesota’s offensive attack this season. The Gophers were limited to only four shots on goal, their least number of shot attempts on the young season.

Denney Wright said there is a lot to gain from a loss to an opponent of the Tigers’ caliber.

“We have a long season ahead of us,” she said. “So we have to grow and learn. We have to take our pill and move on and get better.”

Youthful leaders
Through the Gophers’ first four games, it is the sophomore class that has shouldered the load. Five of the Gophers’ top six points leaders are sophomores.

Lindsey Schwartz – last year’s top scorer with 17 points as a freshman – is tied with redshirt freshman Elena Fruci for the team scoring lead with six points. Sophomores Clare Grimwood (4 points), Kaitlin Wagner (3), Kelsey Hood (2) and Sara Johnson (1) have also been major contributors.

“(The sophomores are) carrying our team,” Denney Wright said. “They’ve grown so much. They got a lot of minutes last year so they look like different players right now.”

With freshmen and sophomores making up the majority of the team – there are no seniors on the roster – Schwartz said the sophomores are trying to take on a leadership role.

“The (upper)classmen are the ones who taught us (how to win) and showed us how to work hard and win every day,” she said. “We definitely learned from them so we are trying to teach the incoming freshmen the same.”

Setting the tone
Junior defender Hailey McCarthy has been making an impact lately with her physical play. Friday night against Iowa State, McCarthy picked up her first yellow card of the season. Her presence was clearly felt on the field Sunday afternoon, as well. She knocked Missouri players to their backs on a couple of occasions.

Denney Wright said McCarthy isn’t trying to send any sort of message with her play; rather she is just playing her game.

“That’s who Hailey is,” Denney Wright said. “She is tough to play against. She knows what the battle is like at the Big Ten level. That’s just Hailey’s personality Ö she has really brought it.”