Taking down UCLA is next on Minnesota’s to-do list

The Gophers will face the Bruins in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Gophers April Bockin, Emily Peterson and Molly Fiedler celebrate a penalty kick scored by Bockin at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.

Jack Rodgers

Gophers April Bockin, Emily Peterson and Molly Fiedler celebrate a penalty kick scored by Bockin at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.

Erik Nelson

Minnesota hopes to continue its tournament run in Hollywood. 

The Gophers (12-8-2) are underdogs on the road against No. 4. UCLA (15-3-1), but head coach Stefanie Golan said Minnesota embraces the that role.

“Our team prides itself in being the underdog,” Golan said. “No matter what we do the year before, everybody counts us out heading into that next year … they don’t care what anybody else thinks.”

The Bruins finished their regular season with a record of 14-3-1. UCLA played only one Big Ten opponent this season, defeating No. 14 Penn State 2-1 on Aug. 25. 

Forward Ashley Sanchez is UCLA’s top scorer. She has scored 10 goals this season and assisted on eight others. Teagan Micah will likely be in goal for the Bruins. Micah has a 0.78 goals-against average this season and has won 10 matches.

Minnesota’s “Take the Stairs” approach has worked so far this postseason. The Gophers haven’t trailed in any of their four postseason matches thanks to goalkeeper Maddie Nielsen and Minnesota’s defense. Minnesota has not conceded a goal since Oct. 21.

Defender Emily Peterson said “Take the Stairs” means that there’s no shortcut to success.  

“A lot of times in the season, you can get caught up in different things like having a bunch of schoolwork,” Peterson said. “The stairs brings you back. Every day is made up of choices. What attitude are you going to bring today that’s going to make you better? It’s the little things that add up to make the team better.”

Minnesota and UCLA will kick off at 9:30 p.m. on Friday at Wallis Annenberg Stadium in Los Angeles. The winner will face either North Carolina State or Santa Clara in the round of 16. 

Peterson said Minnesota is prepared for the task at hand.

“The pressure isn’t on us,” she said. “Yes, we have to win in order to make it to the next round. We’re going to go out there and give it our all.”