After seven-goal weekend, Minnesota will bring the offensive attack home

by Nick Gerhardt

Minnesota walked away with the Nike Hypertherm tournament title last weekend and now they’ll attempt to win their own tournament this weekend as they host the Gopher Invitational.

Minnesota won the inaugural event last season and will try to defend its title against Dayton 7 p.m. Friday and Montana at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The Gophers (2-2 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) and their high-pressure attacking scheme exploded for seven goals in the two games last weekend, the highest total of goals in back-to-back games since 1998, to cruise to their first wins of the season.

Minnesota has started to turn heads with their performance last week as they received votes in the Soccer Buzz Great Lakes regional poll.

The recognition doesn’t surprise some on the team, because they have already noticed differences on the field.

“We’ve started to make teams adjust to our style,” junior forward Lindsey Schwartz said. “This looks like one of the strongest teams I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”

The Gophers will once again attempt to recreate that success in front of a home crowd that has supported them consistently.

“Soccer is pretty big in Minnesota and a lot of people come out,” Schwartz, an Iowa native, said.

Coach Mikki Denney Wright agreed that fan support couldn’t be more important.

“We want to fill the stands,” she said.

The team expects over 1,000 people to the Friday night game, Denney Wright said. In addition to the excitement of the home opener, students showing their University identification card will be treated to live music, free pizza and free admission.

The fan support has translated into success at home where the Gophers boast a record of 79-35-6 in the 14-year history of the program.

“We have a ton of people from our high schools come and watch us play, and that’s extra motivation,” junior midfielder Clare Grimwood said.

Dayton (3-2 overall, 0-0 Atlantic Ten), currently ranked 12th in the Great Lakes region, comes to Minnesota after dropping two of their last three games, Cincinnati being the last.

Always near the top of the Atlantic Ten Conference, the Flyers have nine returning starters and all of their top five scorers from a year ago.

Picked to finish third in the conference, Dayton has a rising phenom in their ranks with sophomore Mandi Bäck who scored seven goals and two assists in her freshman season.

Montana enters the Gopher Invitational on the heels of their first win after losing their first three contests. The Grizzles have just two goals on the year after a year where they finished second in the Big Sky conference with a 10-6-1 overall record and a 4-2-1 conference tally.

The Grizzlies (1-3 overall, 0-0 Big Sky) have played in three matches decided by one goal this season. Opponents have outshot Montana 70-27 but have only scored seven goals, four of those scored in one game by Oregon State.

The Gophers lead the all-time series 4-2 against the Grizzlies, although Montana won the last meeting 2-1 in 2004, which has Minnesota wanting to get on the right track.

Based on the Gophers’ offensive production last weekend, Schwartz believes the team is ready to move on to sealing victories instead.

“We have to develop the mentality to be hungry,” she said, “and put our opponents away.”