Gophers’ season likely to end with penalty-kick loss

Minnesota tied Illinois 2-2 and lost in the penalty kick round at the Big Ten tournament.

Minnesota forward Taylor Uhl plays against Western Kentucky on Sept. 3, 2012 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Anthony Kwan, Daily File Photo

Minnesota forward Taylor Uhl plays against Western Kentucky on Sept. 3, 2012 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Betsy Helfand

Stefanie Golan’s first year as Gophers head women’s soccer coach likely ended with disappointment as her team lost to Illinois on penalty kicks in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

A win Wednesday in Bloomington, Ind., would likely have propelled the Gophers into the NCAA tournament. But after tying Illinois 2-2 and losing 3-2 in the penalty kick round, the team will need a miracle.

“It just hurt and stung to know that it ended so soon,” senior captain Olivia Bagnall said.

The Gophers played almost the entire game with a man advantage after Illinois’ Amy Feher received a red card in the 11th minute. But they still blew a 2-0 lead and let the game go into extra time.

“You never want a game to come down to [penalty kicks],” Bagnall said. “That’s probably the worst way — having a season end on PKs. What’s disappointing [is] just knowing we definitely had a shot at going pretty far this year and it just didn’t work out.”

The Gophers won four of their last five regular-season games to clinch the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament. They finished 6-4-1 in the conference — the same record as the Illini, who they defeated 3-0 on Oct. 12.

“We’re disappointed that we haven’t made a case to where we’re definitely in [the NCAA tournament],” Golan said in an audio statement. “So from my standpoint I’m not happy.”

Golan said the Illini came out with a different formation Wednesday, which suited them well.

The two teams were tied after regulation, overtime and double overtime. In the regular season, the game would end in a tie, but in the Big Ten tournament, penalty kicks settle the tie.

Forward Taylor Uhl gave Minnesota an early edge in the shootout with a goal in the upper corner.

Illinois scored on its first three attempts, but Tamara Strahota, Minnesota’s fourth shooter, kept it alive.

Taylor Wodnick had Minnesota’s fifth attempt, but her shot hit the post, and Illinois won the shootout 3-2.

Feher received her red card for tripping Strahota on a breakaway attempt in the box.

Uhl gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead on the ensuing penalty kick. She scored again in the 14th minute, but after that, Minnesota wasn’t able to capitalize on its advantage.

Illinois scored its first goal soon after Uhl’s second goal. Minnesota goalie Cat Parkhill deflected a free kick attempt, and Illinois’ Aliina Weykamp kicked the rebound into the back of the net from a close distance.

“We gave up a bad goal to close out the half, and that gave them momentum that they carried into the second half,” Golan said in the audio statement.

The Illini scored again in the 66th minute to tie the game.

Bagnall said she thought playing down a man gave Illinois a spark.

“[They had] an edge on their shoulder ’cause they felt that it shouldn’t have happened,” she said.

The game is the second in a row in which Minnesota has blown a two-goal lead. Last game, they came back and won.

If this is the last game the Gophers play this season, it will end like it started.

In Minnesota’s season opener against Florida State, it also blew a 2-0 lead. 

“I know we’re a better team than what we’ve shown,” Bagnall said. “We had a lot of talent on our team. That’s … the hardest thing for us.”

Bagnall said knowing it was her last game as a Gophers player was really upsetting, and she said she thought the chances of them making the tournament were very low.

Golan called their chances “very slim,” while Bagnall said she thought the committee would likely take the fifth- and sixth-seeded teams in the conference, Illinois and Wisconsin, instead of them.

Minnesota will officially find out its fate Monday when the NCAA selection show airs.