Gophers bring host of bad streaks into weekend road trip

Bob Wothe

After a brief two-game home stint, Minnesota’s soccer team is back on the road again, looking to break a few streaks.

The Gophers are currently in the midst of a school-record five-match losing streak and have lost each time by one goal.

They’ve lost 13 straight league matches on the road dating back to Oct. 14, 2001.

They haven’t scored in three straight games, and a total time of 351:38 has ticked off the clock since Laura Hoppe’s goal in the 19th minute against Indiana on Sept. 17.

There is one streak that Minnesota would like to keep alive, though. The team has never been shut out in four straight games and doesn’t want it to happen for the first time this weekend.

The Gophers travel to Champaign, Ill., for a 7 p.m. match against Illinois today, and visit Northwestern at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The Illini return nine starters from a squad that won the Big Ten tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament a year ago. Illinois started the season with seven straight wins before it dropped back-to-back 1-0 games to Michigan and Illinois State.

“Illinois has a fantastic attack and one of the best goalkeepers in the nation,” Gophers coach Mikki Denney Wright said. “On top of that, they’re hungry since they just lost to Illinois State last weekend.”

That loss knocked Illinois, ranked 10th last week, all the way out of the top 25. But the Illini are still 8-2 (2-1 Big Ten) and lead the Big Ten in goals allowed with just four in 10 matches.

Although the Gophers’ own goals-allowed figure has dropped significantly from last year, down from 2.38 to just 1.08 goals per contest, Minnesota will be without the services of defenders Tierney Palmer-Klein, Lisa Berg and Jen Cressman this weekend.

Denney Wright will be forced to shuffle her lineup more than just a bit, she said.

“We have lots of different, secret plans at the moment,” Denney Wright said. “Basically, it’s defense by committee.”

Those “secret plans” include the movement of any combination of forwards and midfielders to the back row, Denney Wright said.

The Gophers might get some much-needed relief Sunday because Cressman, who suffered a midfoot sprain against Michigan State Sunday, said she’s hoping to return against the Wildcats.

“We’ve just gotta get bodies out there,” Cressman said. “There are four of us out right now – it’s amazing.”

The Gophers will need her, too. Northwestern’s Kelsey Hans, a Lakeville, Minn., native and Ms. Soccer in Minnesota last year, leads the Wildcats in scoring with 17 points on eight goals and one assist. The Gophers, on the other hand, have scored a combined seven goals.

Forward Regina Moench, in particular, said she really wants to get back on the board. She hasn’t scored since Sept. 11 in the Gophers’ loss to Montana, despite having numerous chances.

“Some days we’re on, and some days we’re just off,” Moench said. “We’ve got to start getting the ball in the back of the net.”