U opens Big Ten

by Jim Schortemeyer

STATE COLLEGE, Penn. — It’s not exactly walking wounded, but the Minnesota women’s soccer team certainly is still far from healthy for this weekend’s Big Ten tournament.
Already dealing with the loss of senior Kelly Shea, the Gophers practiced Thursday at Penn State without sophomore Laurie Seidl.
“Laurie is really sick,” Minnesota coach Sue Montagne said. “It’s not a big secret that she’s got mononucleosis. She’s got something that’s going to take a while to get over.”
Montagne said Seidl’s health has gotten progressively worse over the past few weeks, but she expects Seidl to play in Friday’s game with Indiana.
Despite her illness, Seidl had a goal in last weekend’s game against New Mexico.
While Seidl rested at the team’s hotel, Shea went through her second practice since recovering from a pair of injuries to her leg.
She practiced for the first 20 minutes of the hour-long practice before stopping to talk to athletic trainers. Shea was upbeat despite not participating fully in practice.
“I thought it would be tougher than it was, but I ended up doing okay,” Shea said.
Shea had been a regular feature in the Minnesota lineup before going down in a game at Michigan on Oct. 4. She tore a tendon and team physicians decided to perform surgery on a shin problem called compartment syndrome, which causes Shea leg pain during aerobic exercise.
Hobbling noticeably, Shea spent most of her limited practice time setting up offensive plays with crossing kicks and playing in a half-field intra-squad game.
Although Shea does not admit she is not fully recovered, she would not say how close to fully healed she is.
“I feel a lot better than I did after the surgery,” Shea said.
Although Shea has hopes of playing, Montagne was skeptical.
“It will be hard because she’s a senior and we want her to play; she’s a part of this team,” Montagne said. “But you have to weigh if she’s going to make a difference. If she gets in it will be very limited time.”
Despite the injury and illness on the team, Montagne hinted the team will not be hampered against Indiana Friday.
“We’re just nursing the same stuff we have all season,” Montagne said.
Minnesota (13-5, 5-4 in the Big Ten) will play Indiana (14-5, 6-3) at 2 p.m. Friday.
The Gophers won 1-0 in the only meeting this season, a game which started their current six-game win streak. The Hoosiers won 1-0 last weekend to unheralded San Francisco and narrowly beat St. Mary’s in overtime. Both of those teams have losing records.
Indiana was the only team not at Penn State for Thursday’s practices. The Hoosiers practiced in Bloomington, Ind., before arriving in State College on Wednesday night.
Most team practices were light-hearted and allowed the players to get used to the climate.
Normally all-business Nicole Lee caused some laughter while clowning for teammates at the Minnesota practice. But the poker faces are likely to return come game time, when Lee and the rest of the Gophers will go after their third Big Ten championship in five years.