Gophers fall in Big Ten Quarterfinal to Wisconsin

Wisconsin defeated Minnesota for the second time this season.

Midfielder Molly Fielder runs with the ball at the Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Friday, Oct. 20.

Jack Rodgers

Midfielder Molly Fielder runs with the ball at the Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Friday, Oct. 20.

Erik Nelson

The Badgers took advantage of something the Gophers have struggled with as of late — corner kicks.

Wisconsin forward Maia Cella opened the scoring in the 33rd minute with a goal off a corner kick. Defender Sammy Kleedtke kicked the ball to Cella and earned the only assist, marking the second time in three games that Minnesota allowed a corner kick to end with the ball in the net.

Minnesota (11-5-3) lost to Wisconsin (13-4-2) 2-0 in the quarterfinal of the Big Ten women’s soccer tournament. The Gophers, who were the defending Big Ten tournament champions, could not advance to defend their 2016 title.

“We worked on it [defending corner kicks]. We’ve talked about what we need to do. We’ve worked on latching onto players,” said head coach Stefanie Golan. “We don’t have the answers right now. We know that it’s a point of contention.”

Defender Tori Burnett said Minnesota wasn’t on the same page against Wisconsin on Sunday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

“We were all trying to do different things individually,” Burnett said. “We needed to come together as a team and play our style of soccer.”

Wisconsin’s Dani Rhodes scored the game’s second goal on a deflection in the 67th minute. Burnett and goalkeeper Kailee Sharp raced back to prevent the ball from entering the net, but it was too late.

“It’s soccer. Anything can happen,” Burnett said. “That was an extremely unfortunate goal. Credit to Rhodes for putting pressure on our defense.”

Minnesota didn’t record a shot on goal against Wisconsin goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem. Clem recorded her second shutout against the Gophers this year. She shut out Minnesota on Sept. 16 when Wisconsin won 1-0 in overtime. A shot by forward April Bockin late in the second half was one of Minnesota’s better scoring chances, but the ball hit the right post.

Golan said it was difficult to get shots on goal because Wisconsin players sacrificed their bodies to prevent scoring chances.

“We were able to get behind them a lot, and then our final decision of the ball across wasn’t as crisp as it needed to be,” Golan said. “As we got it to somebody’s feet looking to take a shot, they were sliding and blocking it,” Golan said. “They were gritty. We weren’t as crisp as we typically are.”

Golan credits Wisconsin for finding a way to win, but she said her team wasn’t good enough in the offensive zone.

“I don’t think we were sitting back. I don’t think we were waiting,” Golan said. “The game we play is a game of opportunities, and we didn’t create enough from what we typically do. They put away a couple of errors that we made.”

Burnett said Minnesota wasn’t playing up to its potential.

“They played us really tight, and we didn’t get enough of the ball down on the ground and didn’t play enough of Gopher soccer,” she said. “We were hurting ourselves more than they were hurting us.”

Wisconsin will play Northwestern on Friday in Westfield, Indiana. Minnesota’s eligibility for the NCAA tournament will be determined on Nov. 6. Last season, the team earned an automatic tournament bid after winning titles in the Big Ten regular season and the tournament. This year, the Gophers will have to wait and see if they are chosen for the event.