Soccer team hopes domination continues

Monica Wright

Despite much-improved fortunes, senior Erin Holland is dreading this weekend’s match against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee — and it has nothing to do with their imposing 3-0 Midwestern conference record.
After what seemed like an endless losing streak, the Minnesota soccer team has finally turned the tide with three consecutive shutout wins against strong Big Ten opponents.
So it would seem Holland has every reason to be excited about Friday’s game.
But for Holland and teammates Laurie Seidl and Nicole Chimko, it means the final regular season home game of their careers.
“Right now the thought of it is very emotional to me,” Holland said. “Sometimes it doesn’t seem like four years have gone by, and that game is going to be hard.
“I never thought this day would come.”
After spending the past four years earning a Big Ten title and appearing in three NCAA tournaments, it’s easy to see where time got lost.
But in order to earn another chance to play on home turf, the Gophers (6-6) have to win some big games to garner a home NCAA tournament position.
And Holland said this means the seniors have to put aside their feelings and focus on the task at hand.
“I am hoping the emotion will give us that much more drive,” Holland said. “We just have to put aside the uneasy feelings when the game starts.”
Another obstacle challenging the Gophers are the four consecutive road games they face after taking on the Panthers on Friday.
Though they broke their road-game losing streak last weekend with a 2-0 win against Indiana and a 1-0 win over Purdue, junior Samantha Meyers said the team refuses to feel at ease on the road.
“I think we’ve learned from our mistakes and we know we can’t get too comfortable in our winning state,” Meyers said. “We have to keep pushing ourselves so we won’t get back into another slump.”
With this in mind the Gophers are set to battle two teams they have dominated in the past but have posted turnaround records in 2000.
The Panthers lead the Midwestern Collegiate Conference and like the Gophers are on a three-match winning streak. Though Minnesota leads the all-time series 4-1-1, coach Barbara Wickstrand doesn’t discount the Panthers as a viable threat.
“They’ve been in the NCAA tournament two of the last three years,” Wickstrand said. “They are a competitive, tough team and a rival of ours. It’s going to be a hard match because we always have close games with Milwaukee.”
Sunday’s road match against Michigan State (9-2-2, 4-2-1 Big Ten) won’t be a chance for the Gophers to catch their breath.
While the Gophers own an impressive 8-0-1 lead in the series, the Spartans boast an equally impressive undefeated (5-0) record at home. Adding to the challenge is goalie Sara Kloosterman, who has given up only nine goals this year.
For Holland, wins against these powerhouses are a must if she wants to see action on the Elizabeth Lyle Robbie stadium pitch again.
“If we get a good standing in the NCAA there is no doubt we’ll get a home bid based on our abilities and strong play on the field,” Holland said. “I’m hoping this won’t be the last game at home.”

Monica Wright covers soccer for the Daily and welcomes comments at [email protected]