Two games, two shots, one win for soccer on the road

by Jabari Ritchie

Minnesota’s soccer team suffered from the same problem in both games over the weekend at Ohio State and Penn State. In their first two Big Ten games, the Gophers had trouble creating any offense.

In each game, Minnesota (2-4, 1-1) had just one shot on goal.

On Sunday, the 8th-ranked Lions (4-2, 1-0) capitalized on the Gophers’ problems, cruising to their sixth straight win over Minnesota.

Penn State, a three-time defending conference champion, outshot the Gophers 15-1 in its 4-0 victory.

“It was a tough game,” Minnesota forward Hailee Walsh said. “Penn State’s a huge rival so it’s definitely disappointing to lose like that. But they’re the best team in the Big Ten and in the top 10 in the nation.”

In Friday’s conference opener against the Buckeyes (3-4, 0-1), however, one shot was all the Gophers needed.

“It’s strange, but it looks good for us,” defender Sarah FitzGerald said. “One shot, one goal. We finished on our opportunities. We need to get more opportunities, but we did what we needed to do.”

Ohio State couldn’t find the net despite having 21 shots, 16 free kicks and 16 corner kicks. The Gophers’ goal came from their only corner kick.

“We got the win and it was a very fortunate win,” coach Barbara Wickstrand said. “Defensively, we played strong. We played with intensity for about 20-30 minutes after we scored, but up until then we were just playing defense. We had one opportunity and we capitalized on it.”

Center midfielder Alison Rackley, playing for the first time since spraining her ankle in the season opener, put Rachael Roth’s pass past Buckeyes goalkeeper Jen Heaney in the 63rd minute.

“We got a goal and I think that’s what it took for our team to pick it up,” FitzGerald said. “But we need to get goals earlier and we need to get more than one. We have to be consistent.”

Rackley, one of Minnesota’s captains, gave the Gophers a boost.

“It’s absolutely great to have Rackley back,” Walsh said. “She is not only a leader in the way she plays, but she’s an emotional leader. She really carries a lot of the emotional weight of the team, so to have her back makes a big difference. She really makes people play well around her.”

Rackley played for about 60 minutes Friday and 50 minutes Sunday.

“I think when she was out there she made a huge difference,” FitzGerald said. “I just can’t wait for her to be out there for all 90 minutes.”

Against the Lions, Minnesota also had problems on defense. Penn State had a 2-0 lead midway into the first half and didn’t look back on the way to its 20th consecutive Big Ten win.

One of the Lions’ goals resulted from a free kick, but the other three came from defensive errors.

“We had some mis-communications and got caught flat a couple times and they definitely capitalized,” Wickstrand said. “We couldn’t really string anything together offensively.”

The Lions’ first and final goals came from junior All-American Christie Welsh, who has six goals this season. Freshman Sophia Hiler, a Minnetonka native, also scored.

“We had a few breakdowns and they’re the type of team that is going to capitalize on those opportunities,” Walsh said. “Obviously they scored four goals, but I don’t think we played very terribly.

“We hustled and really worked hard, but we just didn’t get a lot of offensive opportunities and they capitalized on theirs.”


Jabari Ritchie covers soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]