Soccer ties Creighton, beats Buffalo

Adam Fink

Bodies were flying. Fouls were adding up. Frustration was building.

After 110 minutes of up-and-down, physical soccer at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium, neither Minnesota nor Creighton’s soccer team budged as the teams ended in a 1-1 two-overtime tie in front of 362 spectators Monday afternoon.

Despite the tie, Minnesota was declared the tournament champion going 1-0-1 – the only team not to lose a game.

In that final game, neither team scored after the first half as play got sloppy due to fatigue and a combined 34 fouls.

Along with Friday’s 4-2 win over Buffalo, this was the Gophers’ most successful opening weekend since the 1999 squad started 2-0. Minnesota scored five goals, had solid goaltending and played with high energy.

“We didn’t lose,” coach Barbara Wickstrand said. “That’s the best part. (But) we need to get more physical. They were really coming hard at us.

“We hurt ourselves by not playing as well as we can.”

The Gophers (1-0-1) opened the game technically unsound in an area they usually thrive in: playing defense.

The Bluejays (0-1-1) opened scoring nine minutes into the game. Regina Moench, a 2000 Bloomington Jefferson graduate, scored after breaking through the right side of the Gophers defense.

Minnesota goaltender Karli Kopietz ran to the top of the 18-foot goalie box to challenge the play but Moensh sidestepped her and scored on the empty net.

“It was one of those in-betweeners,” Kopietz said. “I wasn’t sure if I should come out. She made a nice move to get by me.”

Being outshot 4-1 at that point, Minnesota needed a change. The Gophers made a defensive substitution, subbing in defender Nicki Burns for midfielder Allison Raino.

Momentum then shifted just before halftime. Two players from each squad gathered in front of Creighton’s net for an attempted header from the high-arcing pass from midfield.

However, all four players missed the ball and when the confusion ended, Gophers freshman Haley Lentsch found herself with the ball and only goaltender Jaimie Thompson, the 2002 Missouri Valley Conference player of the year, to beat.

“I saw the left side was open,” Lentsch said. “I just fired it and it went in.”

The best chance either team had to take the lead after that point came with 15 minutes remaining in the second half. Creighton’s Emily Munn took a crossing path to Kopietz’s left side and fired to the right side of the goal.

The three dozen Creighton fans in attendance rose to their feet in anticipation of the goal.

But to their dismay, the ball hit the right goalpost and bounced away.

“We got some lucky breaks today,” Lentsch said.

On Friday against Buffalo, Minnesota didn’t need those bounces to avoid a loss.

With temperatures in the 60s, Minnesota kicked off its 11th season of intercollegiate competition Friday by turning up the heat in the second half of a 4-2 win over the Bulls.

Tied at 2-2 halfway through the second stanza, Gophers forward Kaitlin Neary scored after teammate Annie Carr’s shot hit the top of the goalpost and bounced to Neary. Captain Amanda McMahon added an insurance goal three and a half minutes later at the 80:13 mark to ensure the victory.

The story of the game wasn’t the win, however. It was the way Minnesota responded after allowing the Bulls to mount a comeback.

Wickstrand said before the game she expected her squad to be nervous. For most of the first half, the team proved its fourth-year coach right. The Gophers weren’t able to muster any consistent offensive pressure.

Despite building a 2-0 lead against an overmatched Buffalo squad, the Gophers appeared hesitant on both ends of the field.

After Buffalo tied the game, Minnesota could have collapsed. Instead of allowing a letdown, which has happened in the past, Minnesota rallied behind Neary and McMahon.

“We knew we were better than this team,” sophomore Rebecca Dellaria said. “When we get scored on, mentally we get down and take ourselves out of the game. But this time we seemed to refocus ourselves.”

Dellaria was a key reason for the Gophers recording their sixth season-opening win in 11 chances and their first since 1999.

The forward was able to utilize her speed in the Gophers’ new three-forward attack. Dellaria weaved through the Buffalo defense and recorded her first goal at Minnesota 30:31 into the game. Dellaria also notched two assists and recorded seven shots.

“She has one of the hardest shots on the team,” Wickstrand said.

Overall, Wickstrand was satisfied with the weekend. According to Wickstrand, every player hustled, the defense communicated well and the team kept the ball moving.

Three areas Wickstrand said need to improve are recognizing double teams, keeping the opponents’ defense confused and maintaining concentration.

“We need to stay organized out there,” Wickstrand said. “We have to keep the ball away from double teams and take advantage with the players who are open. We can’t lose our composure.”

Minnesota returns to action this weekend against Ohio University and Florida Atlantic as part of the Wildcat Classic in Evanston, Ill.