Gophers split against Michigan, MSU

Minnesota is now 1-2 in the Big Ten.

Minnesota midfielder Taylor Wodnick dodges Michigan State forward Allyson Krause on Sunday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Image by Daniel Worku

Minnesota midfielder Taylor Wodnick dodges Michigan State forward Allyson Krause on Sunday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

by Betsy Helfand

The Gophers soccer team rebounded from a poor showing Friday with a 1-0 win over Michigan State on Sunday, managing a split in its weekend series at home.

The win didn’t come easily for the Gophers, and head coach Stefanie Golan said after the game that luck was a factor.

Minnesota (6-5-0, 1-2-0 Big Ten) has had some trouble closing out games this season, and it showed Sunday. The Spartans gave the Gophers a scare in the second half and almost tied it in the last minute of the game.

“When I hear ‘Eight, seven six,’ and it’s bouncing in our box, I held my breath, [and] my heart started beating a little faster,” Golan said.

But the Gophers escaped, despite not playing as well as they could have in the second half.

“One of our issues is that we’ve been here before,” Golan said. “We’ve been in a lead before, and I think our team thinks so much about the fact that we’ve given them up that we play a little bit scared to tie, scared to lose as opposed to closing a game out.”

Minnesota spent a significant portion of time in practice this week working on defensive set pieces following last weekend’s loss to Ohio State, during which it gave up two set-piece goals.

This weekend, the Gophers did not give up a goal off of a set piece.

Defender MacKenzie Misel said she thought that even though Michigan State had opportunities late in the game, the team’s defense on set pieces was one of the differences in closing it out.

“We were better on our set pieces off of corner kicks, we were better inside our box playing defense and we were really just laying out to protect goals,” Misel said.

Eight minutes into Sunday’s game, Taylor Wodnick gave the Gophers a 1-0 lead. Midfielder Katie Thyken delivered a pass to forward Taylor Uhl, who passed it from near the end line to Wodnick for the Gophers’ only goal of the weekend.

On Friday night, the Gophers had problems connecting with each other. Golan said the 1-0 loss to Michigan was probably the team’s weakest performance of the season.

In Sunday’s game, Golan said she thought the Gophers played well in the first half. But in the second half, she said they had connection problems that were reminiscent of Friday’s struggles.

Minnesota had a couple of scoring opportunities against Michigan on Friday, but both forward Allie Phillips and defender Marissa Price said the team was “flustered” by the Wolverines.

Price called it an off-night in multiple areas and said that everything needs to be better, including one-on-ones and offensive possessions.

Despite escaping with a win Sunday, Golan said the team needs to be tougher in the final moments of games.

“We have to get to where in the closing moments, the ball is in the other end of the field more than it’s in our end,” Golan said, “and we haven’t managed games well from that standpoint.”

Minnesota will return to action Thursday night against Wisconsin at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

The Badgers entered this weekend ranked No. 14 in the country. Like Minnesota, they also beat Michigan State and lost to Michigan.