Few goals and fewer wins leave soccer nowhere to go but up

by Jabari Ritchie

Before starting the season, Minnesota’s women’s soccer team was filled with confidence after using a new system to score five times in its first scrimmage of the year.

But the Gophers (5-12, 3-7 Big Ten) could only manage nine goals for their entire season, which turned out to be the least successful in the program’s nine-year history.

“I think a lot of us expected some good things after playing last spring,” said senior midfielder Alison Rackley. “Our first scrimmage we won 5-2. Everyone was kind of like, ‘Wow, this is going to be a good season.’Ö (but) a couple things didn’t go our way. “

Despite winning its season opener at Xavier, Minnesota didn’t enjoy the start it hoped. Rackley injured her ankle in the game. By the time she returned to score the game-winner in the Big Ten opener at Ohio State, the Gophers had been shut out three times in a row.

“I think a lot of it was the system we were playing,” senior defender Allyson Brodie said about the team’s struggles. “I know we didn’t score a ton of goals after we changed our system back to a 4-4-2, but when the coaches changed our system in the beginning of the season that just kind of threw us off and shook everyone up.”

After changing their system from a 4-3-3 to the 4-4-2 used before the season, the Gophers upset Illinois 2-0 and looked to grab a 3-1 Big Ten record after dominating their game with Iowa two days later.

But with two minutes remaining against the Hawkeyes, Minnesota surrendered the game-winning goal. The loss was the first in a record four-game losing streak.

“That Iowa game affected us because we dominated that game and were unlucky with our shooting,” said sophomore forward Rachael Roth. “It was hard losing to Iowa because they weren’t very good.”

Minnesota finished 10th in the conference, missing the Big Ten tournament for the first time ever.

“I don’t think we gelled as a team in a whole sense,” said coach Barbara Wickstrand. “I think we had individuals playing well at different times, but nothing clicked at the same time consistently.”

Minnesota scored nine goals this year – not even half the former season low of 20 ñ and Roth contributed seven of the goals. Late in the season, the Gophers settled on sophomore midfielder Anna Nudell Lee to pair up with Roth.

Minnesota has nine other returning players who started games this year. Freshmen Tierney Palmer-Klein and Megan Turner started nearly every game.

“For the most part, it’s really hard to be thrown into a starting position in the Big Ten, especially for someone like Tierney who was expected to be our center mid,” said Brodie. “That’s one of the crucial spots on our team… She definitely stepped it up and I think next year she’ll be even more prepared.”

The rest of the returning players also look to learn from their disappointing season.

“I don’t see the heart and desire in some of the players,” Rackley said. “Some of them have it, but there are some people who seem to me like they don’t want to be out there playing and that’s hard to take. There needs to be a serious change of attitude from this year.”