Minnesota looks to continue surge with homestand

by Mark Heller

Suddenly, the dike is close to breaking open and the Minnesota soccer team is about to jump in and go for a ride.
What was a miserable weekend two weeks ago against Ohio State and Penn State has transformed itself into a sea of excitement and confidence.
Last weekend’s sweep against Indiana and Purdue was a jolt for the team, not only because they jumped from seventh place to third place in the Big Ten, but because of the way they did it.
“It wasn’t necessarily that we were having a lack of offense,” sophomore midfielder Samantha Meyers said. “But we weren’t working together as a team. As a result of us working together as a team this week, we came across and scored big goals. We had six this past weekend and that was huge for us. I think we’re going into this weekend strong and we’re ready for Michigan.”
For reasons baffling to coaches and players alike, the Gophers always seem to get up for the 14th-ranked Wolverines, who they play tonight. Minnesota has never lost to Michigan, and have a perfect 6-0 record since 1993.
It’s an offense that most feel is just beginning to break out, but the matchup of these two teams could be a clog.
Gophers coach Sue Montagne is expecting a low-scoring game. She thinks that both teams have similar styles of play — they’ve yielded scores of 2-1 and 1-0 in their last two meetings.
“They’re a good team,” Montagne said. “They move the ball around, and we like to play against teams that play our same style, that aren’t just banging and doing 100-yard sprints. Michigan is really talented and having a great season.
“They’re always going to be really tough games, and we do match up well with them. Both teams are going to be working so hard offensively and defensively that it’s going to be a low-scoring game.”
Michigan and Penn State are the only undefeated teams left in the conference. Since Minnesota was unable to play the physical style of the Lions or the Buckeyes two weeks ago, this would seem like a golden chance for this team to prove that they can beat a quality, ranked team.
Especially since they could very well face one at the Big Ten tournament.
“At the same time we’re looking at Michigan and they’re at the top right now,” sophomore forward Alison Rackley said. “To beat them it would definitely say that we should be up there.”
Montagne, however, doesn’t necessarily agree.
“I think you can look at it that way, but in some ways I think it isn’t healthy to look at it that way,” she said. “We put so much pressure on ourselves all along with ‘you’ve got to win this game, you’ve got to win that game, if we don’t win this game we’re going to be down at the bottom of the barrel.’ I don’t want us to go into this game thinking that we need this to show everyone.”
So the stage is set for what appears to be a game of large proportions for both teams. History is surely on Minnesota’s side, and the Gophers are hoping their matchup with the Wolverines continues to sound like a broken record.
“We’ve never lost to Michigan,” Meyers said. “And we don’t plan on ever losing to them.”

Mark Heller covers soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]