Kopietz nearly back to top form

Adam Fink

With only 22 minutes remaining in regulation and a 1-1 score Monday afternoon against Creighton, Minnesota’s soccer team found itself in a dire situation.

Following a Gophers penalty inside their own goaltending box, Bluejays’ midfielder Lulu Quigley set up for a penalty kick in front of the net. Only Minnesota goaltender Karli Kopietz stood between Creighton reclaiming the lead – and possibly winning the game.

Quigley shot the ball to the left side of the net and Kopietz made a diving save to the delight of her teammates and the fans at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

The play preserved an eventual double-overtime tie. It also highlighted a successful weekend in which Kopietz returned to regular season game action and eliminated some of her rust after surgery last winter.

The sophomore missed nine months while recovering from her second anterior cruciate ligament surgery in the past three years. Last weekend, the Champlin, Minn., native allowed three goals on 15 shots, for a .800 saves percentage.

During her freshman campaign, Kopietz allowed 1.23 goals per game and a .830 saves percentage in 17 games – the best saves percentage for a Minnesota goalie since Julie Eibensteiner in 1999.

“I feel like I am about 80 percent,” Kopietz said. “I am feeling better and better as each game goes on. I really need to get my game mentality back.”

Coach Barbara Wickstrand thought Kopietz played a good game but expects more from her 5-foot-8-inch goalie.

“She is getting there,” the fourth-year coach said. “She did a great job when the ball was in the air. And she smothered anything in the box.”

Wickstrand cited communication with her teammates as an area Kopietz needs to continue to improve on.

Unlike the final weeks of last season, Kopietz was pain-free in net in last weekend’s tournament. And her Gophers teammates finally fed off of a healthy goalie.

“We depend on her back there,” defender Jen Cressman said. “She keeps us in games. We need her to step it up.”

Along with two exhibition contests, Kopietz has four games under her belt since having surgery.

The hardest part now for Kopietz is realizing her knee is healthy.

“I have to step it up,” Kopietz said. “I need to settle down and realize I can basically do anything I did before the surgery.”

Dellaria will play

Minnesota forward Becky Dellaria will likely play this weekend after

injuring her lower right leg against Creighton.

Dellaria smashed into a Bluejay defender near midfield at the 28:38 mark of the first half. The sophomore lay on the ground for several minutes before being lifted off the field.

Against Buffalo last Friday, the speedy Woodbury, Minn., native scored her first career goal at Minnesota and tallied two assists.

Dellaria will practice today and Wickstrand hopes she will be near 100 percent for Friday’s contest against Ohio University.

Offense opens strong

After returning only one starter from last year’s forwards, a question heading into the season was how the offense would score goals.

While it is too early to pass judgment, the early results are positive. Minnesota (1-0-1) scored five goals in its two games. The team scored only 22 goals all last season.

“We are taking things slowly,” forward Haley Lentsch said. “But it is coming along.”

In the two games, Minnesota started Lentsch, Dellaria and Kaitlin Neary at forward.

Wickstrand said Lentsch and Neary’s ability to read the game and Dellaria’s breakaway speed complement one another.