The Minnesota soccer team’s best start since 1995 was abruptly interrupted as soon as Big Ten play began.
The Gophers dropped their first pair of Big Ten home games this weekend, with losses to Northwestern and Wisconsin. The two defeats extended Minnesota’s losing streak to four, with all four losses coming to conference opponents.
Friday night’s game against the Wildcats (7-5-0 overall,
3-1 Big Ten) was decided just more than a minute into the game. Junior forward Kelsey Hans scored the only goal of the 1-0 game off an assist from sophomore forward Jenny Dunn.
The rest of the game, the Gophers (6-5-1, 0-4-0) matched Northwestern well. Both teams had a lot of opportunities but all were missed opportunities, and Minnesota was never able to strike back.
“I thought defensively we were solid, we were organized and we did the right things,” coach Mikki Denney Wright said. “It was all about our attack and our inability to score a goal.”
That inability to score a goal has plagued the Gophers during their Big Ten matchups. Minnesota was shut out in its first three matches of conference play.
“Tonight as an offense, we were just unable to connect,” sophomore midfielder Clare Grimwood said. “We just didn’t find a way to score.”
Grimwood said the team would take Saturday to refocus and come out fighting on Sunday.
Early on against Wisconsin (5-4-2, 2-2-0), it looked as if the Gophers had done a lot of refocusing. They came out on the attack early and their aggressiveness paid off when sophomore midfielder Kaitlin Wagner scored her fourth goal of the year in the third minute of play to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead.
That was about all the good that would come for Minnesota. A Wisconsin goal in the 31st minute tied the game and the half ended with the score knotted up at one.
A Wisconsin offensive barrage came in the second half though. The Badgers scored four goals in less than 14 minutes giving Wisconsin a 5-1 lead, and silencing a crowd of over 1,100 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.
“I thought we had about 15 minutes of absolute hell,” Denney Wright said. “I thought we played good after that and we played good in the first half but give them credit, they punished us.”
Denney Wright said the team being so young attributed to the team getting “spun” during the first 15 minutes of the second half. Sophomore midfielder Kelsey Hood said the team just didn’t show up to play.
“Honestly, I think we just weren’t ready to play today,” she said. “We needed to start playing consistent and we definitely didn’t do that.”
The scenario for the Gophers now is a tough one in terms of an NCAA Tournament bid. Minnesota has seven games left, not including the Big Ten Tournament. No. 9 Penn State and No. 15 Illinois are both on that schedule and both on the road. The Gophers will need to win at least four, if not five, of the remaining games if they have hopes for postseason play.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating, but there’s a lot of games left to be played,” Denney Wright said. “I’m not worried. So what, we lose four games, that’s life. I think that we can still rebound.”
After the four losses, Hood said that it’s going to be important to regain some focus.
“We have a 6 a.m. practice tomorrow, so I think that
coach will help us with that,” she said. “I don’t know what our deal is. We just need to pick it up.”