Gophers win ugly on senior day

Minnesota beat Illinois 3-0 at home earlier in the weekend.

Minnesota forward Taylor Uhl pushes ahead of Northwestern defenders in Sunday's 1-0 win at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. Uhl scored the only goal of the game, her 16th of the season. (Blake Leigh)

Blake Leigh

Minnesota forward Taylor Uhl pushes ahead of Northwestern defenders in Sunday’s 1-0 win at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. Uhl scored the only goal of the game, her 16th of the season. (Blake Leigh)

Betsy Helfand

The saying “a win is a win,” is as cliché as it is true.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Gophers will take the win they got Sunday. They defeated Northwestern 1-0 on Sunday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

The win completed a weekend sweep for Minnesota. The team defeated Illinois 3-0 on Friday at home.

“Ugly wins and pretty wins count the same, and to get a sweep on the weekend was huge for us,” head coach Stefanie Golan  said. “We just didn’t get two back-to-back quality performances.”

Golan said the first half of Sunday’s game was probably the team’s most lackluster performance of the season.

“I laid into them at halftime,” Golan said. “They knew it wasn’t good enough.”

She said she thought the team played harder in the second half.

Minnesota took the lead in the 78th minute with a goal by sophomore forward Taylor Uhl, which was assisted by Allie Phillips  and Allie Reinke.

Uhl said Friday that she had been working on dribbling more before shooting. Her goal Sunday was a function of that.

“I could have shot it early but decided to take another touch, and it worked out,” Uhl said.

With the goal, Uhl now has more goals than the entire Northwestern team .

Even though the Wildcats (4-10-2, 0-8-0 Big Ten) are at the bottom of the league, goalie Cat Parkhill said Minnesota expected the Wildcats to come out hard.

Northwestern’s defense held Uhl, the Gophers’ biggest offensive threat, quiet for most of the game.

“They like to kind of stay really high on your back when you come back to go and receive it,” Uhl said. “They like to come up and let you know they’re there for sure, so that kind of knocked me out of the game for awhile.”

 Uhl said she thought it proved something that the Gophers came out with a win even on an off-day for them.

Golan said the win was a credit to the team’s resiliency.

“We’ve had a couple that weren’t the prettiest … that we found a way to win,” Golan said.

She said she thought the team didn’t close out the game particularly well, even though it came out on top.

The ball was in Minnesota’s end of the field as the seconds ticked off the clock in the senior-day win.

“It was in our end a little bit more than it should have been,” Golan said. “We weren’t getting it deep enough out. They were getting balls in, but they weren’t getting dangerous [opportunities].”

The Wildcats had just five shots in the whole game, with just three being on goal.

Parkhill, a senior, said it was good to get the win on senior day, but it would have been “much worse if we didn’t get the win given the circumstances of the game.”

Minnesota honored its seven seniors — Parkhill, Phillips, Olivia Bagnall, Nicole Baier, Marissa Price, Jackie Voigt and Tamara Strahota — during halftime.

Strahota, a captain, started the game but played just three minutes.

She had missed two games with a lower-leg injury, and she made a big impact Friday in her return.

Normally a defender, Strahota was playing up with the forwards Friday, where she scored one of the Gophers’ three goals. Uhl had the other two.

Strahota’s goal was her first of the season.

Golan said the team wanted to put Strahota in a position where she could have the most success. She said there was less pressure on her up front.

Strahota played for 61 minutes Friday, and Golan said Strahota was not in a position Sunday to give the team a lot of minutes.

Golan said the team would manage Strahota throughout the week so it could have her back next weekend against Indiana and Purdue.

Minnesota’s Big Ten tournament hopes took a big leap this weekend, and Parkhill said if the team wins its three remaining games, it’ll be in a great position come tournament time.