Gophers drop a pair of matches to open Big Ten play

The Gophers have not scored in their last three games.

Forward Haley Hartkemeyer huddles with her team at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 12. The Gophers defeated North Carolina State 1-0.

Jasmin Kemp

Forward Haley Hartkemeyer huddles with her team at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Thursday, Sept. 12. The Gophers defeated North Carolina State 1-0.

Julianna Landis

For the second time in three days, the Minnesota women’s soccer team found themselves behind on the scoreboard early, and on both occasions the Gophers fell short. Minnesota lost 2-0 on Sunday to Mayland and 2-0 to Rutgers on Friday.  

The Gophers had a strong first five minutes against Terrapins with three shots and a corner kick, but their momentum didn’t last as Maryland made several substitutions to readjust. A foul committed by Makenzie Langdok in the sixth minute gave Maryland a free kick, and Mikayla Dayes scored with and assist from Jlon Flippens. 

This early mistake added to the frustrations of the Gophers.

“I wouldn’t say necessarily there’s breakdowns individually, I think as a unit the back line has been giving up too many soft goals, and in the attack we haven’t been capitalizing off opportunities,” co-captain Marisa Windingstad said. “Just overall, we need to be cleaner on both sides of the ball.” 

Despite the difficulties of the match, Windingstad said it was important for the team to not point fingers and take responsibility as a unit. 

The Gophers were scored on even earlier in the second half than in the first. Flippens had another assist, this time to Alyssa Poarch who scored at the 46 minute mark. Even if the final score doesn’t reflect it, Minnesota had chances throughout the game, including four shots off the crossbar that could have evened up the score. They also recorded their highest amount of shots so far this season with seventeen, but it wasn’t enough to mount a comeback. 

On Friday against No. 13 Rutgers, the Gophers found themselves in a similar hole, down 2-0 at the end of the first half. Again, Minnesota had shots early: one on-goal from Langdok at the eight minute mark and another by Celina Nummerdor that went wide over the top of the net. 

“Our problem continues to be that we’re not putting the ball in the back of the net and we’re not making people earn their goals, we’re handing them to them,” head coach Stefanie Golan said after Sunday’s game. 

Despite these early looks, the Gophers also had to defend from chances by the Rutgers’ strong forward core. Just minutes after Nneka Moneme made the first shot for the Scarlet Knights, the team’s forwards were able to come back into the offensive zone on another breakaway in the 15th minute and Amirah Ali scored, assisted by Taylor Aylmer. Moneme added Rutgers’ second goal in the 20th minute, on a chance created because of miscommunication between goalie Maddie Nielsen and the defenders.

“Everything is coming off of silly mistakes from our standpoint, and until we stop giving away goals and we start putting the ball in the back of the net when we have the opportunity to do so, we’ll continue to lose games,” Golan said after Sunday’s game.

Despite the struggles scoring, the team found positives in their performances over the weekend.

“This was our best 90 minutes of play,” captain Nikki Albrecht said after Friday’s loss to Rutgers. “Right after halftime we came out blazing. I’m so thrilled with the mentality we had going into it that we weren’t going to lose. The fact that we went down to the wire and fought until the clock hit zero, I was really amazed by that.”

The Gophers return home to face Penn State on Friday, Sept. 27 at 6 p.m.