Gophers split final weekend of regular season

Minnesota defeated Iowa 3-1 on Thursday and lost 2-0 to Penn State on Sunday.

April Bockin dribbles down the field during the game against DePaul on Thursday, Aug. 30 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Ellen Schmidt

April Bockin dribbles down the field during the game against DePaul on Thursday, Aug. 30 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Erik Nelson

On a windy Sunday afternoon in State College, Pennsylvania, the Gophers left Happy Valley unsatisfied.

No. 21 Penn State (13-5-0, 9-2-0) defeated Minnesota (9-8-1, 5-5-1) 2-0 in a match between the past two Big Ten champions. Nittany Lions midfielder Kerry Abello scored twice as the Nittany Lions clinched the Big Ten regular-season title. 

Head coach Stefanie Golan said the weather made it difficult for the Gophers to generate scoring chances. For the first time since Oct. 29, 2017, the Gophers did not have any shots on-goal. 

“You’re exerting a lot of energy to move,” Golan said. “[Penn State was] trying to stretch us out and play behind and have us run and chase. We had a couple of half-looks where we got in their end, got something across and didn’t get the final piece out of it. The [players] battled hard.”

Abello beat Minnesota goalkeeper Maddie Nielsen in the 13th minute with a quick shot that found the top right corner of the net. Abello scored again in the 69th minute. 

Midfielder Emily Heslin said Jeffrey Field, Penn State’s soccer stadium, is a tough place for visiting teams to win.

“It’s a fun atmosphere to play in,” Heslin said. “They’ve got a great stadium and draw great crowds.”

Gophers clinch postseason berth

Thursday night was Breast Cancer Awareness Night at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. Minnesota honored midfielder Molly Fiedler’s mother Anne Phillips, a breast cancer survivor, as an honorary captain in a pre-match ceremony. 

Fiedler lived up to the occasion with her third goal of the season as Minnesota defeated Iowa (8-8-2, 4-6-1) 3-1 . It was the final home match of the regular season for the Gophers. By defeating the Hawkeyes, the Gophers clinched a berth in the Big Ten tournament.

Fiedler said scoring in front of her mother meant a lot to her. Fiedler’s goal came in the 14th minute off of a Minnesota corner kick. 

“I can’t even put it into words,” Fiedler said. “It’s surreal.”

Forward April Bockin scored twice for her ninth and 10th goals of the season. Defender Nikki Albrecht assisted on both of Bockin’s goals. Bockin has scored multiple goals three times this season. Nielsen won her ninth match of the season and made four saves.

Albrecht said Minnesota wanted to clinch a Big Ten tournament berth for the seniors.

“I could not give them a better gift to give them a postseason [berth],” Albrecht said. “We were able to come off of two hard losses for us and say that we have so much more left in the tank.”

Golan said Minnesota is grateful that the team qualified for the postseason.

“We’re happy for the team,” Golan said. “They deserve to be in the Big Ten tournament.”

Minnesota will play on the road in the Big Ten quarterfinal on Sunday. The match’s start time and Minnesota’s opponent will be determined by the Big Ten at the conclusion of Wednesday’s match between Nebraska and Michigan State.

Golan said the Gophers will go over film and practice Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for the Big Ten quarterfinal.

“We’re going to recover,” she said. “We’re going to focus on us.”