Spirits soaring on

Brad Unangst and Paul Sand

Despite being shut down in last weekend’s home losses to Indiana and Purdue, Minnesota’s soccer team is feeling positive after its first practice of the week.

“I felt that people were trying harder and more heart was out there,” forward Rachael Roth said Tuesday. “I don’t feel like everyone’s down. People’s attitudes are up.”

The Gophers, who lost 3-1 to the Hoosiers and 3-0 to the Boilermakers, are preparing for a weekend series against Northwestern and Wisconsin.

“I think we just had an awesome practice,” sweeper Samantha Meyers said. “I’m pumped. I’m in a good mood right now.”

Minnesota had a competitive practice with drills involving passing and shooting close to the goal. In last weekend’s games, the Gophers struggled to create and finish offensive chances. They were outshot 31-17 and had trouble sustaining pressure.

“Everybody was in there scoring (in practice) and I think that’s why they did it today,” Meyers said. “We need to have shots on goal. It was fun and I that’s what we needed. Everybody’s in a good mood and I think we’re really looking forward to this weekend already.”

Coach Barbara Wickstrand said the team never found its rhythm against Indiana and Purdue.

“I just think, mostly Sunday, we never strung two passes together,” she said. “We never supported the ball, so we never could get anything going offensively.”

Eibensteiner struggling

Goalkeeper Julie Eibensteiner, who has three shutouts this season, had never allowed six goals in a weekend before the games against Indiana and Purdue.

In Friday’s game, Eibensteiner stood still as the Hoosiers took the lead with a free kick in the second half.

Two minutes into Sunday’s game, she did not take control of a slow-rolling ball in the goal box. Meyers’ attempt to clear the ball was intercepted and led to a Purdue goal. Freshman Kelly Kraft replaced Eibensteiner in the 76th minute of the game.

“She’s lacking some confidence,” said Wickstrand, who was a two-time All-America goalkeeper at North Carolina State. “She’s got to be more assertive in calling the ball… A lot of that’s mental, so she’s got to work that out. We’ll do everything we can at practice so she can see those types of shots and be confident.”

Bumps and bruises

Minnesota suffered injuries to three starters against the Hoosiers last Friday, but Wickstrand said forward Alison Rackley and defenders Sarah FitzGerald and Megan Turner should be “100 percent” for this weekend’s games.

Forward Jordan Bieler, who has played just five minutes since suffering a concussion in the first week of September, is also expected to be ready to play. Bieler practiced Tuesday.

“She’ll be ready to go as well,” Wickstrand said. “She was sick last week. I think we got a touch of the flu.”

Defender Katherine Arndt, who suffered a sprain before the season began, returned to action against the Hoosiers. She replaced FitzGerald in the 79th minute and played 46 minutes Sunday.

“I felt really good. Unfortunately, the outcome of the games weren’t great,” said Arndt, who the Gophers voted as last year’s most improved player. “We were getting little bumps and bruises back there. I’m just glad I could step in and play as hard as I could.”