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Gophers’ five-game winning streak ends against Northwestern

Minnesota’s 2-0 loss on Thursday night was its first since Sept. 16.

Defender Nikki Albrecht said there’s a difference between playing on grass and playing on turf. Minnesota played Northwestern on Thursday night at Martin Stadium in Evanston, Illinois. Martin Stadium is an all-turf facility.

“The grass is cut shorter, and it’s a different feel and vibe,” Albrecht said. “But we know how to play on that field. It didn’t take us too much time to get [accustomed to playing on turf].”

Northwestern (7-6-2, 4-3-1) defeated Minnesota (9-3-3, 5-2-1) 2-0, ending Minnesota’s five-game winning streak and six-game point streak. Minnesota lost its first game since Sept. 16 when the team lost 1-0 to Wisconsin in overtime.

Northwestern’s first goal came in the 21st minute when Brenna Lovera beat Minnesota goalkeeper Kailee Sharp. It was Lovera’s third goal of the season. Hannah Davison earned an assist.

The Wildcats extended the lead to 2-0 in the 44th minute when Michele Chernesky scored her second goal of the season off of a set piece. Davison earned her second assist of the game on Chernesky’s goal.

Head coach Stefanie Golan said that both goals came after Minnesota committed bad fouls. She said Northwestern is extremely talented at scoring goals off of set pieces.

“There was some miscommunication between our backs and goalkeeper. [Northwestern] got in there and put it in the back of the net,” Golan said. “If we don’t make those fouls, we don’t give them set pieces.”

Albrecht said the team had to respond after Northwestern scored twice in the first half to take a 2-0 lead. Minnesota had not trailed by more than a goal this season.

“We knew we had to flip the page, and we had the whole 45 minutes to start fresh and start pressing as hard as we could,” Albrecht said. “Playing down gives us a sense of urgency. Unfortunately, we couldn’t connect in the final third.”

Northwestern goalkeeper Lauren Clem made seven saves, earning her seventh win of the season. Forward April Bockin had two shots on goal for Minnesota, more than any other player.

Golan said Minnesota progressed after halftime. Minnesota was outshot 7-4 in the first half, but the Gophers outshot Northwestern 9-2 in the second half.  

“We were in their end for a really long portion of the [second] half. Their goalkeeper had to make two unbelievable saves,” she said. “We put them under a lot more pressure. We had a lot more looks, and that’s always a good sign.”

Midfielder Athena Kuehn thinks Golan said the right words after the loss. 

“She said, ‘Are we going to let this be a speed bump, or are we going to let this be a mountain?’ We did lose our [winning streak], but I think we’re going to hit our peak at the right time,” Kuehn said. “We’re going to keep grinding.”

Minnesota’s next game is against Illinois on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Champaign, Illinois. The team has not lost two consecutive games this season. Golan said she is shifting focus to the game on Sunday afternoon.

“I’m looking forward to seeing our players respond on Sunday,” she said.

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