Wagner’s goal gives Gophers biggest upset in school history

Junior midfielder Kaitlin Wagner scored the overtime goal to give Minnesota a 1-0 win.

by Nick Gerhardt

On a weekend filled with celebrations Minnesota had more reason to rejoice Sunday after delivering a stunning defeat to No. 8 Penn State.

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what: Soccer
when: 4 p.m., Friday
where: Evanston, Ill.

The Gophers (7-7-1 overall, 3-4 Big Ten) retired the No. 19 jersey of all-time leading scorer and member of the 1997 Big Ten championship squad Jennifer Walek Friday night and honored the seniors Sunday afternoon.

Minnesota channeled the Walek legacy and played its best soccer of the season as they handed the nationally ranked Nittany Lady Lions (12-3-2 overall, 6-1 Big Ten) a 1-0 double overtime defeat.

Junior and No. 19 Kaitlin Wagner connected on a free kick from 20 yards out that found the back of the net in the 103rd minute of play for the game winner.

With Wagner and junior Clare Grimwood both over the ball before the free kick they looked at each other and Grimwood asked if Wagner was “feeling it.”

“We’ve been doing (free kicks) where whoever is feeling it for the game will take the free kick,” Wagner said. “Clare said ‘Are you feeling it?’ and I said I’ll take it.”

After the short exchange Wagner lined up and fired a shot toward the upper corner of the net that beat Penn State keeper Alyssa Naeher.

The goal concluded a nerve-wracking overtime. On the previous play junior Lindsey Schwartz gathered in a loose ball and fired on an open net, but she fired high and the ball hit the cross bar and dropped straight down to deny her a goal.

The exciting win goes down as the biggest upset the Gophers have delivered in their history. It’s their first win against the Nittany Lady Lions since the 1997 Big Ten championship team beat Penn State 4-3 in overtime.

Senior Hailey McCarthy summed up the win as “pretty much the most unbelievable, best win” in her career.

The Nittany Lady Lions rode an 11-game unbeaten streak into the matchup with Minnesota, but the Gophers’ defense proved up to the task of stopping the Penn State attack.

Coach Mikki Denney Wright shuffled her defense slightly this weekend as she started junior Lindsey Dare in goal and she switched freshmen defenders Kylie Kallman and Jennie Clark, moving Clark to centerback.

Dare delivered another Sunday shutout, replacing sophomore Chelsey Turner and making a pivotal save in the first half to preserve a scoreless game.

In the 44th minute Danielle Toney slipped behind the Minnesota defense on a breakaway and had a one-on-one situation against Dare, but Dare came off her line and made a sliding save.

“That breakaway was the game. You knew if they made it there it was going to be the game,” Denney Wright said.

The breakaway proved the only lapse in the defense as Kallman played opposite the conference leading scorer Katie Schoepfer the majority of the afternoon and limited her ability to create scoring chances.

The defense looked the best it has all season and Denney Wright took pride in their performance.

“I thought they grew throughout the match. They played very, very well,” she said of the freshmen back line.

The upset win could not have come at a better time for the Gophers.

Friday night the team suffered a devastating 2-1 overtime loss to extend their losing streak to four games.

Minnesota took an early second-half lead when freshman Molly Rouse found herself with a wide open look at the goal and fired a shot to the upper right corner for her second goal of the year.

But the Gophers could not find an insurance goal, and the Buckeyes scored the equalizer in the 84th minute.

Ohio State (10-6 overall, 4-3 Big Ten) carried the momentum of the late goal into overtime and scored the game winner in the 95th minute.

The win over Penn State gave Minnesota much-needed confidence heading into the final three games of the season, where they face Northwestern, Wisconsin and Iowa.

“Time to put them away,” McCarthy said.