Gophers hope to hit stride along I-96

Emily Wickstrom

The last time Minnesota’s soccer team lost a game, it came back and won the next five conference contests.

The Gophers will try to bounce back again after the team’s most disheartening defeat of the season – a 1-0 double-overtime loss to Ohio State on Sunday.

“I don’t think it’s tough to rebound (from the loss),” senior defender Tierney Palmer-Klein said. “If anything it just adds fuel to the fire and gives us something to work at.”

Minnesota (8-5-2, 5-2 Big Ten) will travel to the Wolverine State this weekend to face Michigan State today in

East Lansing, and Michigan on Sunday in Ann Arbor.

Gophers coach Mikki Denney Wright said the fact that Minnesota has continually played close games will help her players move on.

“It’s not like our kids don’t know how to deal with emotional games,” Denney Wright said. “Some Big Ten teams have lost and you see them just go in the tank Ö I don’t think that’s even a piece of this team.”

Gophers players said they expect today’s matchup against the Spartans to be the weekend’s key game.

Michigan State is third in the Big Ten – one spot ahead of Minnesota – and features forward Emma Harris, who is second in the conference in goals. The Spartans are strong defensively and use a lineup formation similar to the Gophers’.

“(Michigan State) is really good this year,” sophomore midfielder Megan Fightmaster said. “(Denney Wright) said it will kind of be like playing against ourselves.”

One thing Minnesota may be concerned with this weekend is depth. With just 13 players consistently seeing playing time, that number may be down to 12 after senior midfielder Kaitlin Neary sprained her ankle in practice Tuesday.

Neary said she hopes to play but was struggling to walk Wednesday.

Picking up at least one win this weekend is important in keeping the Gophers’ hopes of qualifying for the NCAA tournament alive. Denney Wright said she thinks Minnesota needs two more wins in the last three regular season games and the Big Ten Tournament to get a bid.

With No. 1 Penn State coming to town Oct. 28, beating either the Wolverines or the Spartans would take a serious load off Minnesota’s back.

Denney Wright said the Gophers are ready for the pressure.

“These teams are fantastic,” Denney Wright said. “The best thing is we have every ability to play with and beat them. We’re in a program right now where we can talk about Ö beating these teams.”