Gophers downed by Badgers at home

Minnesota allowed four goals in a game for just the second time this season.

by Ben Gotz

Despite a strong first-half performance, the Gophers weren’t able to keep up with their rivals from across the border.

The Gophers (8-7-1, 5-4-1 Big Ten) allowed three second-half goals to visiting No. 15 Wisconsin, losing 4-1 on Saturday. It’s the first time the Gophers have suffered a loss to the Badgers since 2010.

“Obviously, we’re all upset,” said senior midfielder Taylor Wodnick. “We came out playing how we wanted to play, how we normally play, and [then] in the second half, it just wasn’t connecting.”

The Gophers didn’t get off to a great start, as redshirt senior Kodee Williams scored less than five minutes into the game to give the Badgers a 1-0 lead.

But Wodnick, who started in place of an injured Rachel McCloskey, got her head on a cross from sophomore midfielder Josee Stiever to score the equalizer.

“She stepped up and has been playing great the last two games,” senior captain Katie Thyken said. “She was always first one off the bench, first one ready to go. She really showed up today.”

The Gophers had a few more chances in the first half and had more shots than the Badgers at the break.

“I thought the first half was really indicative of what our team is,” head coach Stefanie Golan said. “They scored an early goal, we responded to that, and I thought in the first half we really dictated the tempo of the game.”

But one thing that hurt the Gophers was the loss of their senior captain, Thyken, who was shaken up on a play in the first half and did not return to the game.

Thyken was optimistic after the game about her chances to play next weekend, but Golan said the team would wait for further information.

Golan also said not having Thyken on the field made a huge difference for the team.

“When she steps off the field, we lose a lot of organization,” Golan said. “The first half, they had trouble playing through our midfield because we were very organized, and we were battling and we were winning things. When she was off the field in the second half, that’s where they shredded us a little bit — through the midfield.”

The Badgers regained the lead early in the second half off a corner kick, knocking the ball in after it landed in front of the net.

“As soon as they scored that first goal [of the second half], you could feel a little momentum shift,” Golan said. “We kind of deflated for a while there.”

The Badgers added two more goals from senior forward Cara Walls to complete their scoring.

“For us to have continued to grow up to this point in terms of how we responded to adversity, and then to not [respond] in the second half when things were going pretty well for us in the first half, is disappointing,” Golan said.

The Gophers will now have to rebound quickly from the loss, as they have only three games remaining in their regular season.

“We’re thinking about it tonight, and that’s all we get,” Thyken said. “[Then it’s] thinking, focusing on next weekend.”