Winning end would give Gophers a kick

With no Big Ten Tournament bid, Minnesota is playing for pride tonight.

Bob Wothe

While a win tonight wouldn’t get Minnesota’s soccer team into the Big Ten Tournament, it would allow them to come back next year on a winning streak.

“One positive thing about not making the Big Ten Tournament is that we can go out with a win,” junior goalkeeper Molly Schneider said. “The only other team that does that is the NCAA champion, and a win will give us a good boost.”

The Gophers take on South Dakota State at 7 p.m. today at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

With a chance to hold the second-best nonconference record in school history with a win, the Gophers (7-10-0, 2-8-0 Big Ten) said they’re motivated to beat the Jackrabbits (5-9-1) and close the season strongly.

The Jackrabbits are in their first season of competition at the Division I level. Other than freshman Kelsey Worcester – who has tallied nine goals and 19 points – no Jackrabbits player has scored more than two goals or five points.

Meanwhile, the Gophers’ Becky Dellaria and Haley Lentsch are battling for the team scoring lead with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Both will probably get chances to improve their totals today.

But junior Annie Carr said she’d like to see a lot of players get in on the action.

“We want to play strong and dominate this game,” Carr said. “It’d be nice to beat a team 4-0 or 5-0 for once.”

Either of those tallies would be an improvement on the Gophers’ season-best mark of three goals. And against the Jackrabbits, who lost 2-0 to a North Dakota State team the Gophers beat 3-1 Sunday, Carr said it’s realistic.

Goal-scoring aside, though, coach Mikki Denney Wright said she relishes today’s game because it gives her team the opportunity to be the favorite.

“We’re so used to being an underdog,” Denney Wright said. “Hopefully, in the future, we’ll play more teams where we’re expected to win like this.”

She said a win today will help the team’s confidence heading into the offseason.

“We’ve gotten better in every single category except for scoring goals this year,” Denney Wright said. “Finishing strong here is important for us.”