Minnesota grabs first win of season over NC State

A lone header from Athena Kuehn secured the game over the Wolfpack.

Goaltender Maddie Nielsen picks up the ball. Gopher women's soccer lost to Wisconsin 3-2 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie stadium on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

Tony Saunders

Goaltender Maddie Nielsen picks up the ball. Gopher women’s soccer lost to Wisconsin 3-2 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie stadium on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

Julianna Landis

The rain mercifully let up as game time neared on Thursday, but the Gophers still had work to do against the NC State Wolfpack as they chased their first win of the season. 

The teams traded chances in the early stages of the game, but it wasn’t until a corner kick in the 56th minute by Katie Duong flashed across the box and teammate Athena Kuehn headed it into the goal that the scoreless tie was broken. 

“One thing that’s great about Katie is her consistency,” head coach Stefanie Golan said. “That’s one thing she’s really brought to our team. You know what you’re going to get from her every time she steps on the field.”

The Gophers’ back line was challenged inside the box a few times in the first half, but they repeatedly cleared the Wolfpack’s attempts. This allowed the midfielders and forwards to push the play down the field for chances on NC State goalkeeperJessica Berlin, leading to balanced possession through the first. 

 Minnesota had a chance to get on the scoreboard at the 25-minute mark after a foul called on Wolfpack player Leyah Hall-Robinson gave the Gophers a penalty kick, which was taken by Duong. Her attempt was saved, and NC State got its own chance at a penalty kick after a foul by Celina Nummerdor. The Wolfpack opted to pass the ball into the box instead of trying for a kick from further out, and Tziarra King took a sliding shot that went just wide of the far post. 

At around the 38-minute mark, Minnesota’s Paige Elliott and NC Sate’s Ricci Walkling collided and took a few moments to return to their feet. A foul was assessed to Elliott, but there was no penalty kick. The game continued, but two minutes later Elliott jogged off the field to exit the game before halftime. Emily Bunnell entered the game as her substitution.  

Minnesota maintained its lead through the rest of the half with help from goaltender Maddie Nielsen, who made important saves throughout the game to record a shutout. The 1-0 win for the Gophers is the team’s first win of the season, with their record now standing at 1-4-2. 

“That shutout is a team shutout,” Nielsen said. “We worked hard for that and it finally came tonight.” 

To get the win, the Gophers had to maneuver several tough situations that resulted in time stoppage, something Golan noted can be hard to overcome. 

“With the team as a whole, they know they’ve got to be ready at all times,” Golan said. “The players who heard their names stepped in and did a really nice job. On the flip side, when [NC State] players went down, the team kind of got together and refocused and made sure they stayed strong in those moments.”

The Gophers will be back at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium to face South Dakota State on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 1 p.m.