Gophers clinch No. 4 seed with win

Minnesota finished the regular season by defeating Nebraska 4-2.

by Betsy Helfand

Minnesota knew what it had to do Friday to nab the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament — win.

The team got that spot Friday when it defeated Nebraska 4-2 in Lincoln, Neb. 

The Gophers saw a 2-0 lead disappear as the Cornhuskers scored two goals within 10 minutes in the second half.

But Minnesota never lost confidence that it would find a way to win.

“I think everyone knew we’d come back,” senior Tamara Strahota  said. “We had been dominating the entire game up until [it was tied].”

Junior defender Lauren Bauer said  even though Nebraska tied the game, she was never nervous that the Gophers wouldn’t win.

She credited some of that confidence to Minnesota’s 3-2 comeback win over Wisconsin on Sept. 27 . She said that win showed them “how good of a team we are and how we can come back.”

Head coach Stefanie Golan said that scoring two goals after Nebraska tied it was a tribute to the players’ resilience and that, once they gave up the second goal, they “showed some great composure.”

Minnesota battled back and regained the lead a little more than three minutes after Nebraska tied it.

Bauer’s first  collegiate  goal  couldn’t have come at a better time for the Gophers.

Bauer headed in a Taylor Wodnick  corner kick in the 88th minute  to clinch the Gophers’ win.

Allie Phillips  added an insurance goal for the Gophers in the 89th minute  with a long shot that went over the goalie’s head.

Golan said that the team had been training for Nebraska’s goalie, Emma Stevens, to play far up and that it was “awesome” for Phillips to recognize and finish the opportunity.

Most of the game’s scoring happened within the last 15 minutes. Prior to that, the Gophers had held a lead most of the way.

Strahota gave the Gophers the lead in the 12th minute. Strahota’s goal came after Olivia Bagnall  crossed the ball into the box. After the ball settled down on the ground, Strahota kicked it in from a short distance.

Sophomore Katie Thyken   added a goal of her own in the 30th minute, assisted by Wodnick and Bagnall.  Wodnick chipped the ball up in the air from along the sideline, and Thyken found the back of the net.

Minnesota entered the game tied with Wisconsin and Illinois in the conference with 16 points each.  Because the Gophers had defeated both teams earlier in the season,  they held the tiebreaker and only needed a win Friday to clinch the fourth seed.

Illinois nabbed the No. 5 seed with a 3-2 win over Michigan in overtime.

The Badgers fell to the No. 6 seed after a loss to Iowa.

The Gophers and Illini will kick off the Big Ten tournament Wednesday in Bloomington, Ind.

Minnesota defeated the Illini 3-0 on Oct. 12 behind two goals by sophomore forward Taylor Uhl and one by Strahota.