Tourney hopes could be on the line

Minnesota hosts Indiana with postseason dreams.

Mark Mowery

The final regular season game for the Gophers may prove to be its most important as Minnesota (11-5-3 overall, 4-3-2 Big Ten) hosts Indiana (10-6-2, 2-5-2) at 7 p.m. Friday on Senior Night at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. After successful seasons that fell short of an automatic qualification via winning the Big Ten Conference, the Hoosiers and Gophers will vie for at-large bids in the NCAA College Cup , a 64-team tournament to decide the national champion. Indiana, reeling from a 2-1 overtime loss at home against Purdue on Nov. 3 , presents a balanced attack including a strong attacking front and tough defense. âÄúCarly Samp and Orianica Velasquez Herrera give them a very strong attacking front and Devon Beach is a dangerous attacking midfielder. Kelly Lawrence is an all-Big Ten defender. They will be tough to break down,âÄù Minnesota head coach Mikki Denney Wright said . âÄúIndiana is a dangerous attacking team, a great opponent,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúWe will have to play a great game to matchup with them.âÄù Minnesota will look for a strong team effort to defeat the Hoosiers. âÄúEveryone is a key player for us. The formation is very demanding for every player on the field. It is very critical that every player play at their top level,âÄù she said. Along with the 30 conference champions who automatically qualify for the College Cup, 34 at-large teams are selected by the Division I WomenâÄôs Soccer Committee . Besides record, the committee takes into account strength of schedule, adjusted Rating Percentage Index (RPI), results versus common opponents of other considered teams, late season performance (last eight games) and head-to-head competition. Minnesota stands at 42nd in the most recent RPI , representing games through Nov. 1, while Indiana is six places ahead at 3 6th. Seven of the Big TenâÄôs 11 teams are in the top 50 in RPI. The Big Ten has the third highest RPI behind the ACC and Pac 10, which is something Denney Wright hopes the committee notices. âÄúI think itâÄôs a really strong year for the Big Ten and hopefully the NCAA rewards us,âÄù Denney Wright said. This bodes well for the Gophers strength of schedule, along with nonconference games at Georgia and Marquette, who rank 18th and 27th in the RPI, respectively . With all this taken into consideration, a victory Friday would go a long way to obtaining an at-large bid to the NCAA College Cup. âÄúWe feel like we would have a very good chance at making the field. Obviously, being fourth in the Big Ten overall, having beaten Purdue, Wisconsin and Indiana âÄî if we win âÄî I think we feel like we would have a very good résumé for NCAA selection,âÄù Denney Wright said. Along with competing for a spot in the NCAA College Cup, the game also holds sentimental value for MinnesotaâÄôs two seniors, defender Dana Tripp and forward Sara Clancy . It will be the seniorsâÄô final Big Ten conference game.