Minnesota snares a share of a Big Ten title

Week after week, the Gophers soccer team has focused on eking out wins, taking each game as it comes and playing with sensible consistency. Finally, it has all paid off. Minnesota (18-2-0 Overall , 8-2-0 Big Ten) shares a piece of the Big Ten regular season title with rival Penn State, the first time since 1997 the team has achieved the feat. âÄúItâÄôs really exciting for our players,âÄù Gophers head coach Mikki Denney Wright said. The Nittany Lions have taken home the regular-season Big Ten title every year since 1998. This yearâÄôs accomplishment for the Gophers spreads the pie around a bit, even if they have to share. âÄúItâÄôs fun to see them achieve that,âÄù Denney Wright said. The last step the Gophers took toward achieving that goal was a win Friday night against Iowa. Though the Hawkeyes (9-10 -1, 3-6-1) have been thwarted in recent weeks by Big Ten opponents, FridayâÄôs game was no pushover. Minnesota led the Hawkeyes 11-4 in shots at halftime but had yet to sink a goal. However relief came quickly in the second half, with forward Tamara Strahota tallying the gameâÄôs only goal just 52 seconds after halftime. A strong defensive performance in the second half gave the team the 1-0 win. The goal was StrahotaâÄôs only presence on net all game, but sheâÄôs been developing a habit for stepping up in tense situations all season long. Each of StrahotaâÄôs five goals this season have been game-winners. Denney Wright said StrahotaâÄôs ability to tally game-winning goals and her physical presence have been a major asset to the team this season. âÄúSheâÄôs really coachable, and sheâÄôs very open,âÄù Denney Wright said. Expect to see Strahota, a freshman this year, as a powerful addition to the team in the seasons to come. The Gophers will return to Iowa City next week for the Big Ten tournament, leaving the team little time to relish the victory. The team will take on Northwestern on Thursday. They will enter the tournament as the second seed because of a midseason loss to Penn State. âÄúThe most important thing we can do at this point is making sure our kids are fresh and ready to go,âÄù Denney Wright said. She said the team will get a couple extra days to rest, but she also emphasized the need to get the team thinking with a postseason mentality, where every game is a battle and a loss could signal the end of a season. âÄúThis team has had that mentality all year long,âÄù she said. Though the regular season title goes to the most consistent team, she said, postseason games fall in favor of whoeverâÄôs hottest at the moment. The Gophers have dominated regular season play, but they will need to enter the postseason on their toes, just like everyone else.