Gophers fall in conference tourney semifinals

Minnesota lost to rival Wisconsin for the second time this season.

Minnesota goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs sets up for a kick against Louisiana State on Friday, Sept. 6, at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs sets up for a kick against Louisiana State on Friday, Sept. 6, at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Ben Gotz

The Gophers had their second chance to avenge a Big Ten loss Friday afternoon. But the result remained the same.

Minnesota lost to Wisconsin 1-0 in the Big Ten tournament semifinal, ending the team’s run in the conference playoffs.

Compared to their 4-1 loss to the Badgers in October, the Gophers kept the score much closer this time around, but a lack of offense prevented the team from flipping the script.

Wisconsin got off to a fast start, creating several opportunities offensively.

The deciding goal came just nine minutes into play, when Wisconsin junior midfielder McKenna Meuer knocked in a deflection off a corner kick.

Though the Badgers controlled possession throughout the first half, the Gophers still had chances to tie the game.

At one point, sophomore midfielder Josee Stiever had the ball bounce to her in front of the net off of a corner kick, but she was unable to score.

Stiever said after the team’s victory against Michigan on Wednesday that the Gophers knew they could play better against Wisconsin than they did in their first matchup.

Defensively, that was certainly the case.

Goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs made several saves to keep her team in the game, and the Gophers limited the Badgers’ opportunities.

“Defensively, we’ve gotten stronger,” head coach Stefanie Golan said last week. “We’re not giving up as many dangerous looks as we were at the beginning of the year.”

The Badgers’ defense also played well Friday, earning the team’s fifth consecutive shutout.

The Gophers were the last team to score against Wisconsin when the teams played in October.

With the conference tournament over, the Gophers now have to wait and see if they are in the NCAA tournament.

The Gophers were ranked 59th in the RPI going into the weekend, and the team will see if a victory over No. 25 Michigan on Wednesday is enough to make the tournament bracket.

Regardless of their tournament fate, the Gophers managed to exceed outside expectations this season.

After being picked to finish 11th in the Big Ten during the preseason, the team earned the sixth seed in the conference tournament and advanced to the semifinals.

“I think Minnesota soccer is always a little bit underestimated,” sophomore forward Simone Kolander said last week. “That’s always a good thing for us. I’d rather be the underdog. I knew that we were going to do well this year, and I think we’ve proven ourselves against really tough opponents.”

After the team’s second loss to Wisconsin, Kolander’s head coach echoed the same sentiments.

“Proud of the team this season. Accomplished much more than anyone thought we could this year,” Golan tweeted after the game. “Now we wait.”