Defense shines in weekend shutouts

Not many people have noticed, but the Minnesota soccer team has been suffocating opponents defensively all season. On top of that, the Gophers defense has also been essential in jump starting MinnesotaâÄôs offense. âÄúI think what people donâÄôt understand is our defense allows us to play the way we do,âÄù head coach Mikki Denney Wright said after Friday nightâÄôs 2-0 victory against the Ohio University Bobcats. âÄúWeâÄôre able to attack with so many numbers and play so high on the field and press because we have such a good backline.âÄù The GophersâÄô backline is also appreciated by the woman directly behind it. âÄúItâÄôs a goal keeperâÄôs dream. IâÄôve got experienced, really smart defenders who are really strong and really fast,âÄù said senior goalkeeper Lindsey Dare , who called MinnesotaâÄôs defenders âÄúthe hardest working people IâÄôve ever metâÄù. The Gophers (6-0-0) opened the first annual Regina Moench Memorial tournament against Ohio (1-3-0), and the 90 minutes both teams shared on the field could hardly be classified as a contest. Rarely out of position, MinnesotaâÄôs defenders quashed any Ohio momentum with ease and hovered around midfield for the majority of the game. The Bobcats registered their lone shot on goal during a brief breakaway that was broken up from behind. Prior to Sunday afternoonâÄôs tournament finale against Creighton (4-2-0), the Gophers had allowed just eight shots on goal through five games . Creighton proved to be a tougher challenge than Ohio, mustering two shots on goal. Still, the Blue Jays proved no match for Minnesota, who captured the tournament crown by prevailing 3-0. The Gophers defense withstood a furious flurry of attempts near the 60th minute to preserve their fifth shutout of the season. After the ball was finally booted out of harmâÄôs way, MinnesotaâÄôs defensive effort earned a loud ovation from the announced crowd of 784 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium . Associate head coach Kate Cortis, referred to as the âÄúdefensive coordinatorâÄù by players and coaches, works with the defense every day. Denney Wright lauded Cortis as a âÄúgreat defensive mindâÄù who âÄújust does a great job coaching them overallâÄù. The practices led by Cortis have also helped the defense develop organization. âÄúWe work a lot together at practice, weâÄôre always on the same page,âÄù senior defender Krystle Kallman said. ThursdayâÄôs practices can be particularly grueling, added Kallman, but âÄúgetting zeroes on that board for the other teamâÄù makes it well worth the effort. Despite the impressive results, a common sentiment echoed by both head coach and goalkeeper suggests that the Gophers defense doesnâÄôt get enough attention. Dare observed that MinnesotaâÄôs defenders receive little glory, and characterized the defense by its work ethic. âÄúTheyâÄôve got that just kind of blue-collar, dogfight attitude like theyâÄôre never gonna let down,âÄù Dare said.âÄù âÄúThey donâÄôt get all the credit and accolades,âÄù agreed Denney Wright. âÄúThis team has an opportunity to do something special defensively that I think we havenâÄôt seen for a while.âÄù