Gophers fall on the road against Rutgers

The Scarlet Knights outshot Minnesota 19-5 over the course of the game Friday.

Junior Midfielder Josee Stiever dribbles the ball at the Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Sunday where the Gophers tied the University of Michigan 0-0 in overtime.

Melissa Scharf / Daily File Photo

Junior Midfielder Josee Stiever dribbles the ball at the Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Sunday where the Gophers tied the University of Michigan 0-0 in overtime.

Kaitlin Merkel

The No. 19 Gophers soccer team fell 3-1 to No. 12 Rutgers University on the road Friday.
Minnesota (11-4-3, 6-3-1 Big Ten) is now tied for fourth in the conference with one game left in the regular season.
“Credit to Rutgers, they are a very good team, maybe the best team we have played all year back to front,” Minnesota head coach Stefanie Golan said in an email statement to the Minnesota Daily. “They are extremely organized defensively, and it is tough to get quality looks in the run of play against them.” 
The Gophers struck first with a goal by junior midfielder Josee Stiever in the 29th minute off of a corner kick taken by sophomore defender Maddie Gaffney. Sophomore defender Tori Burnett headed the corner kick out of the air to Stiever, who found the net for the first goal of the game.
Gophers senior defender Haley Helverson said the Gophers capitalized on the traffic in front of the net, Rutgers sophomore goalkeeper Casey Murphy’s weakness.
“We knew going into the game that she struggled with that, so that was the plan,” Helverson said. “Especially with corner kicks and set pieces.”
The Scarlet Knights scored the equalizer in the 42nd minute when junior forward Jessica Puchalski scored her first goal of the season.
Rutgers scored twice after halftime on goals from junior defender Erin Smith and sophomore forward Colby Ciarrocca in the 58th and 60th minutes, respectively.
The Scarlet Knights held Minnesota scoreless in the second half and outshot the Gophers 19-5 total in the game.
“We played really well in the first half, but Rutgers played a better [second] half,” Golan said in an email statement. “Both of their goals in the [second half] were struck extremely well to the back post. They got behind into space we opened up in transition, we didn’t adjust quickly enough and they capitalized on great strikes.”
Helverson said Rutgers’ quick transitioning was hard for the Gophers defense to play against.
“They’re just very high powered. They were able to transition so quickly that it caught us off guard,” Helverson said. “The hardest part is that, especially me as an outside back, I want to get forward as much as possible and help with the offense, and so when you’re leaving those big gaps on the side of the field, that’s when they exploit that space.”
Stiever said Rutgers used a pressure-based defense to stifle the Gophers offense.
“All around, they’re a really strong team,” Stiever said. “They move the ball well. … They put us under a lot of pressure when we were trying to attack, and that made it difficult for us.”
Stiever had four of Minnesota’s five shots, one on goal, while freshman midfielder Molly Fiedler recorded one shot, also on goal.
Gophers junior goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs made five saves in the game.
Stiever said after a loss and a tie last weekend in addition to the loss on Friday, Minnesota needs to refocus.
“We realize we are in a rough patch right now,” Stiever said. “The loss just makes us hungrier for a win on Wednesday [against Illinois].”