Late goal pushes Gophers past LSU

by Jace Frederick

The Gophers’ attackers created scoring chance after scoring chance Friday night at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie stadium, but missed putting the ball in the net on multiple occasions.

But as they have done every time this season, the Gophers did enough to earn the victory, defeating Louisiana State 2-1 to improve to 5-0.

Freshman defender/forward Ashley Pafko played the role of hero, scoring her first collegiate goal in the 81st minute to keep Minnesota undefeated..

“I was ready for [Pafko] to get in there,” junior midfielder Katie Thyken said. “[Joseee Stiever] set the ball perfectly and Ashley just slid as hard as she could and got a toe on it, so it was great.”

Pafko’s goal came on a night when the Gophers had many shots either hit the crossbar or miss the net by inches. That frustrated the offense, Thyken said as the Gophers had 14 shots on the night.

“We’ll get [those goals],” she said. “We’ve just got to keep working on it, keep finishing them at practice, … but we’ll get there.”

Though the Gophers struggled to finish many of their chances, the sheer volume of opportunities is encouraging, head coach Stefanie Golan said.

“The important thing is that we’re creating those opportunities, and we’re creating them against a caliber team like this,” she said. “LSU is a very good team, and to walk away with a win feels pretty good.”

While the Gophers held the ball in the attacking zone for much of the game, Louisiana State created a few chances of its own. The Tigers put five shots on goal, but were turned away four times by freshman goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs in her first career start.

“She was big-time,” Golan said. “The great thing is that the defense rallied in front of her, and the team rallied in front of her, so when a good save was made, it motivated the team.”

Hobbs biggest save of the night occurred in the second half with the score tied 1-1, when Louisiana State senior midfielder/defender Alex Ramsey lofted a shot from well outside the box. 

The ball traveled just over the outstretched hand of the Gophers’ keeper, and hit the crossbar. The rebound went directly to Tigers’ sophomore midfielder Fernanda Pina, whose attempt at net was thwarted by Hobbs.

The freshman keeper said she thrives in the pressure.

“You kind of have to,” she said. “It’s just the thrill of it, the adrenaline gets you going every time.”

The Gophers take on Ole Miss on Sunday in their second and final game of the Minnesota Gold Classic.

Other news of note:

-Gophers sophomore midfielder Haley Helverson scored her first goal of the season in the 15th minute to give Minnesota the 1-0 lead. The Gophers have scored first in all five games this year.

-Thyken was back in action after a shot to the mouth in the Gophers 1-0 win over Iowa State last Sunday caused her to leave the game. She said the hit shoved her teeth up into her gums. Thyken received braces to correct the damage and wore a mouthguard on Friday to protect herself from any further injury in the area.

-The win was the first of three consecutive games versus Southeastern Conference opponents on Minnesota’s schedule. The Gophers went 1-0 in its only battle against an SEC school last season (defeated South Carolina 2-1 in overtime).