Soccer to face rival Michigan again

Last season, Minnesota’s soccer team defeated the Wolverines 4-0 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium for the Gophers’ only Big Ten win. This season, Minnesota heads to Ann Arbor for the rematch.

Adam Fink

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Last September, Michigan’s women’s soccer team was heading toward its best season ever and a match with a struggling Minnesota squad.

Statistically, it appeared both teams would continue on their early-season path.

Coming off a 2001 second-place finish in the Big Ten, the Wolverines were 8-1 and 3-0 in the conference and had high expectations. The Gophers carried a 5-4 record, including 0-3 in the Big Ten.

Although it didn’t seem like a turning point for the two programs, Minnesota’s eventual 4-0 win at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium was a building block for 2003, while Michigan went into a slump.

It was also the Gophers’ only Big Ten win of the season.

The Wolverines wound up going 8-5-1 the rest of the season, including a first-round exit in the Big Ten tournament and a second-round loss in the NCAA tournament.

This season, Michigan has struggled out of the gate with a 1-4-3 record, including 0-1-1 in the conference.

Michigan and Minnesota (4-2-1, 1-1) meet again Sunday in Ann Arbor, Mich., for the first-time since the Gophers’ win last year. Minnesota faces Michigan State (5-2, 3-2) tonight in the first game of its Michigan road trip.

The Wolverines no longer boast Big Ten athlete of the year Abby Crumpton, first team all-Big Ten defender Amy Sullivant or conference second team defender Carly Williamson. All three used up their eligibility.

“Every team goes in a cycle,” Michigan coach Debbie Rademacher said in a statement. “We’ll certainly have a different team (this) year than the one (last) year, but they’ll find their identity.”

Easier said than done.

With an average of less than one goal per game (.88), Michigan doesn’t have a dangerous offensive threat and has struggled when facing a deficit.

Freshman goalkeeper Megan Tuura has been a bright spot – allowing only four goals while making 19 saves.

Minnesota assistant coach Ellen Obleman led practice this week while coach Barbara Wickstrand was on the road recruiting and said the Wolverines are well-coached and have the talent for an upset.

“Michigan is going to be fired up,” Obleman said. “We have to come to play. We can’t expect to go on the road in the Big Ten and ease our way to a win.”

Minnesota gained confidence with its victory over Indiana on Sunday and Obleman said the team wants at least one win this weekend.

After being upset last year, the Wolverines look to play the spoiler and salvage their season against the Gophers. And Minnesota looks to build on a season both players and coaches have hyped as a breakout year.

The Gophers just hope one loss doesn’t put them into a season-long downward spiral.

UP NEXT…
MINNESOTA SOCCER When:4 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Sunday
Where:Michigan State on Friday
Michigan on Sunday
TV: None
Radio:None