Soccer goes 1-1 in opening weekend of Big Ten play

by Adam Fink

Minnesota’s soccer team generated offensive opportunities Sunday against Indiana, played solid defense and looked to run away with its first Big Ten victory since last September.

And then halftime arrived.

While the Gophers hung on for a 2-1 win over the Hoosiers, the second half was full of suspense for Minnesota coaches as the Gophers only managed to cross midfield a half-dozen times.

Indiana generated 15 shots in the second stanza, compared to only four by Minnesota in front of 318 fans at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in St. Paul.

The Gophers lost to Purdue 2-0 in their Big Ten opener Friday and start the conference season 1-1 for the first time since 2001.

“We lost composure after leading 2-0,” coach Barbara Wickstrand said Sunday. “We need to do a better job of recognizing when the pressure is on and when to get rid of the ball.”

Indiana scored its only goal of the game with 2:14 remaining, on a header by Kim Grodek.

Gophers goaltender Karli Kopietz knew the Hoosiers were going to break through for a goal. But the sophomore thought Minnesota (4-2-1, 1-1 Big Ten) played well enough to earn the win.

“They earned their goal,” Kopietz said. “We need to a better job of communicating and trust each other more on defense.”

Kopietz made five saves in the second stanza.

Minnesota built its lead to 2-0 after a goal by Becky Dellaria only three minutes into the second half. Anna Nudell Lee passed to a crossing Allison Raino, who hit Dellaria for a header into the net.

Indiana goalie Stacey Van Boxmeer committed to stopping Raino, leaving the net open for Dellaria.

Dellaria had another shot go slightly over the net later in the half.

“Becky played great,” Wickstrand said. “She was relentless out there.”

In the first half, Minnesota and Indiana battled up and down the field, with most of the action taking place between the two penalty boxes.

The Gophers scored at the 13:48 mark after Amanda McMahon knocked in a rebounded shot. It was McMahon’s third goal of the season.

But before earning its first Big Ten win since defeating Michigan last Sept. 29, Minnesota continued its conference woes.

Prior to game time, Gophers supporters and players gathered for a pre-game party in the parking lot. The alumni band played the Minnesota Rouser and a crowd of 1,073 showed up for the game.

Purdue dampened the excitement early.

The Boilermakers’ Lauren Sesselman scored only 6:22 into the contest.

“We had some mental errors,” Wickstrand said. “A huge positive was we never gave up.”

Minnesota’s best chance to knot the score at one came with 12 minutes remaining in the first half when Nudell Lee received the ball to the right side of Purdue goalie Lauren Mason.

Lee crossed the ball to Anna Neuman and an open goal, but the two narrowly missed connecting.

“We had some chances and we just didn’t take advantage,” Gophers’ co-captain Jennifer Cressman said. “This isn’t the way we wanted to start the conference season.”

While Minnesota rebounded for a win Sunday, Wickstrand wasn’t entirely satisfied. The Gophers fourth-year coach told the team afterward she was happy they won but didn’t like the way the team collapsed in the final 45 minutes.

Wickstrand also said the mistakes were correctable. After hyping up this season as a breakout year, the win gives Minnesota confidence heading into this weekend’s road trip to Michigan State and Michigan.

“We held our ground,” Kopietz said. “We needed at least one win this weekend and we got it.”