As season closes, so do Gophers

Bob Wothe

Minnesota’s soccer team is doing something now that it has struggled to do all year – finish.

The Gophers (7-10-0, 2-8-0 Big Ten) beat North Dakota State 3-1 Sunday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium and Iowa 1-0 Friday in Iowa City, Iowa, to complete a weekend sweep for the second time in three weeks.

“It was excellent to play like we did this weekend,” said junior Becky Dellaria, who tallied two goals and an assist against the Bison. “It’s too bad the season is almost over, because we’re really coming together now.”

In their first-ever meeting with the Bison (5-9-1), the Gophers took an early lead in the 15th minute when a Dellaria cross was redirected into the goal by sophomore Haley Lentsch for her fourth goal of the season.

But the Bison held strong, tying the game in the 39th minute when Michelle Martinez’s shot deflected off the crossbar and down into the goal.

“We came out really flat, and they really battled us,” Gophers coach Mikki Denney Wright said. “I told the team at halftime that we might as well walk off the field if they weren’t going to play hard.”

The Gophers, led by Dellaria, responded. Her goal in the 55th minute was a high, arching shot that went through Bison goalkeeper Kelli Reed’s outstretched hands. Then, 30 minutes later, Dellaria gave the Gophers some insurance as she beat Reed on a pass from Lentsch in the box.

While the Gophers said they took the Bison lightly Sunday, there was no shortage of attitude and confidence Friday.

“It was one of those games where, no matter what the score was, we knew we were going to win,” senior Regina Moench said. “We really should have had a few more goals than we did, honestly.”

As it turned out, the Gophers would only need one goal to beat the hapless Hawkeyes (0-13-2, 0-9-1). Moench scored on a cross from fellow senior Mary Kasper, who recorded the first point of her career in the 37th minute.

The Gophers dominated the tempo and outshot the Hawkeyes 16-5 while goalkeeper Molly Schneider recorded her fifth shutout of the season – three more than the Gophers had last year.

“It was one of our best games of the year,” Denney Wright said of the game against Iowa. “But we still have to get better at finishing in the future.”

For now, though, they’ll focus on one last game versus South Dakota on Friday.

“We’re trying to build a culture here,” Denney Wright said. “It’s really important for us to win this last game and finish the season strong.”