Gophers beat another ranked opponent

by Austin Cumblad

A word of advice to Gophers opponents âÄì if youâÄôre going to score, it better end the game. Apart from an overtime, golden goal loss to then-No. 4 Notre Dame, the Minnesota womenâÄôs soccer team has trailed for all of six minutes in 10 games in 2010. Thursday night against 20th-ranked South Carolina, it was behind for nearly five whole minutes. But then, the Gophers leveled the score, bagged two more before halftime and never looked back on their way to a 3-1 road win. It was their second defeat of a ranked opponent this season. On Sunday, there would be no deficit to fight back from. Minnesota (8-1-1 overall) packed all of its goals into a 20-minute stretch in the second half and didnâÄôt allow a shot on goal as it cruised to a 3-0 victory over Illinois State at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. The Gamecocks struck early on Thursday. Less than six minutes into the game, junior Kayla Grimsley, who trained this summer with Minnesota senior midfielder Katie Bethke on the U.S. WomenâÄôs Under-23 team, snuck a perfectly weighted pass behind the Gophers defense to Brooke Jacobs. The senior forward took a touch toward the end line and sent the ball into the roof of the net. âÄúI think it almost angers them when they get scored on,âÄù head coach Mikki Denney Wright said of her team. âÄúWhen they get hit, they swing back.âÄù And four and a half minutes later, Minnesota landed a punch. Freshman Steph Brandt pounced on a poor back pass and took off toward goal. The ball was poked away by South CarolinaâÄôs last defender, but sophomore Allie Phillips was on hand to pick up the loose ball and beat goalkeeper Mollie Patton with a low shot to the far post. The Gophers didnâÄôt trail again. In the 32nd minute, the Gamecocks cleared a corner off the line, but it stayed in front of goal and junior defender Josie Solie got a foot on it for her first career goal. It was also the first of three goals Minnesota scored from corner kicks over the course of the weekend. Senior defensive midfielder Kylie Kallman consistently sent dangerous, curling crosses into the area that her teammates were able to get on the end of. Minutes after SolieâÄôs go-ahead goal, the Gophers earned another corner and Kallman connected with junior center back Tamara Strahota to give Minnesota a 3-1 lead that it would not relinquish. The Gamecocks surged forward in the second half and outshot the Gophers 11-3, but the back line kept Grimsley âÄì South CarolinaâÄôs biggest offensive threat âÄì from getting inside, often double-teaming her on the wing and steering her toward the sideline. Shortly after the break, sophomore goalkeeper Cat Parkhill deflected a breakaway shot by Gamecocks forward Maria Petroni just enough to send it caroming off the post and away from goal. South Carolina never got closer. âÄúWe really had to grit out that second half,âÄù Solie said. âÄúCat just had an amazing game, which helped a lot.âÄù With as critical as Parkhill was to MinnesotaâÄôs victory on Thursday, Solie and her fellow defenders apparently decided to give their keeper a Sunday off. Illinois State failed to put a single shot on target, while at the other end the Gophers bombarded Mara Kremenovic with 12 shots. Senior Katie Bethke, typically a center midfielder, spent most of her afternoon haunting Redbirds defenders on the wing and sending ball after ball into the box. She assisted all three Minnesota goals, the last of which was an absolute stunner off the head of a streaking Julie Rezac. âÄúWe had a great work ethic for runs in the box today,âÄù said Bethke, who is now tied with Silvia Fuentes of Arkansas Pine Bluff for the national lead in assists.