Minnesota soccer set to kick off conference play

Minnesota welcomes OSU to town to open the Big Ten schedule.

Drew Claussen

 

After a disappointing start to the 2011 season, the Gophers soccer team will be looking to turn things around when they face Ohio State.

Minnesota (3-5) will face off against the No. 25 Buckeyes (5-2) Sunday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium looking to begin conference play on the right foot.

What can Minnesota expect this weekend?

âÄúTheyâÄôre good âÄî they were in the Final Four last year. They always put together a good side,âÄù head coach Mikki Denney Wright said. âÄúIt should be a great battle for us.âÄù

The Gophers would have played Ohio State had they been able to get past Georgetown in the Sweet Sixteen last year.

Ohio State lost its semifinal matchup to eventual champion Notre Dame. Even though the matchup features two of the best Big Ten teams from last year, the Gophers know this year is different.

âÄúWe are going into it like itâÄôs another conference game,âÄù said junior Nicole Baier. âÄúWe donâÄôt want to hype it up too much.âÄù

The biggest challenge for the Gophers will be to regain last yearâÄôs form and to get the new pieces in the starting lineup to gel and start performing consistently.

âÄúWe certainly havenâÄôt had a great nonconference stretch so weâÄôre still trying to figure out, find ourselves and get our team into the best place possible,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúI think youâÄôll see quite a few changes until we find the right mix.âÄù

Minnesota has seemed to struggle replacing the six seniors lost from last yearâÄôs team.

âÄúWe knew weâÄôd be a work in progress and we certainly are a work in progress right now,âÄù Denney Wright said.

The Buckeyes and Gophers have historically played each other close.

Ohio State has a 10-9-1 series advantage. Seven of the 20 matches between the two teams have gone into overtime.

The BuckeyesâÄô leading scorer is freshman Kiiri Kuld who has notched two goals this season with two assists. Senior Paige Maxwell leads Ohio State in shots taken with 32 âÄî 11 on target and one goal.

âÄúI think we still have a lot of room to grow, as far as learning how each other plays and overcoming adversity,âÄù Baier said.