Minnesota has tough Sweet 16 task at Notre Dame

The Minnesota soccer team has already made history, entering the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. This weekend the team will attempt another historic victory as it takes on No. 1 overall seed Notre Dame. The Gophers go head-to-head with the Fighting Irish in a 7:30 game Friday at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish overcame Toledo and Michigan State last weekend to advance to the Sweet 16. For the Spartans the loss was hard-fought, a game in which Notre Dame led in shots 29-3 but was unable to get a go-ahead goal until the 72nd minute of play. Sophomore midfielder Julie Rezac said, though the team would like another shot at defeating Michigan State, it was good to know Notre Dame had a tough time defeating the Spartans. Kerri Hanks will be a contributing part of the Fighting Irish attack Friday. Hanks had three shots on goal against the Spartans and has netted 18 goals this season, almost half of the scoring production Minnesota has enjoyed all season. Rezac said though the Gophers will present a strong front Friday, the team will need to work on finishing in order to stay in the game. âÄúWeâÄôre a really gritty team,âÄù she said. âÄúWeâÄôre known for how fit we are and how hard we work.âÄù The statistics are definitely on the side of Notre Dame going into FridayâÄôs game. The team is undefeated. It has only allowed goals in 10 games. Nineteen of its victories have been won by two or more goals. Hanks is seventh in the nation in points per game, and the team has scored a total of 78 goals this season. However, the knowledge that her team is an underdog seems to do nothing to spoil the hopes of Gophers head coach Mikki Denney Wright. âÄúIâÄôve learned that itâÄôs fun to be the underdog,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúOur players love the underdog role. It has no pressure to it. This is a fearless group.âÄù Notre Dame has an impressive attack, but Minnesota has proven it can shut down aggressive teams this season. The teamâÄôs shutout percentage ranks fourth in the nation. This is the first meeting for the two teams, but Gophers midfielder Kaitlin Wagner said the hype doesnâÄôt add to the pressure. âÄúEven though itâÄôs the first time weâÄôve played them as a school, itâÄôs going to be the first time we beat them as a school too.âÄù