Minnesota’s unexpected run comes to an end

UCLA defeated the Gophers 5-0 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Friday.

Senior Emily Heslin handles the ball during the game against DePaul on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Ellen Schmidt

Senior Emily Heslin handles the ball during the game against DePaul on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Erik Nelson

The Gophers’ dream of advancing to the NCAA round of 16 ended in Los Angeles.

No. 4 UCLA (16-3-1) defeated Minnesota (12-9-2) 5-0 on Friday at Wallis Annenberg Stadium in Los Angeles. 

Head coach Stefanie Golan said the Bruins are more advanced than the Gophers. 

“UCLA is a special team,” Golan said. “They’re a next-level team. They’re ranked in the top five in the country for a reason. They’re a team that can win a national championship and they have some special players.”

After four consecutive shutouts, goalkeeper Maddie Nielsen and the Gophers defense couldn’t contain UCLA’s speed and skill. UCLA forward Ashley Sanchez assisted on four of UCLA’s five goals. 

Bruins midfielder Chloe Castaneda opened the scoring in the fourth minute. It was Castaneda’s fifth goal of the season. UCLA scored two more times in the first half to take a commanding 3-0 lead into halftime. 

Forward Maddie Castro said UCLA played a different system than Minnesota in the first half.

“They were accountable for where their players were all the time,” Castro said. “They knew where we were going and how to block out passing lanes.”

Minnesota had two shots on-goal. One came from defender Nikki Albrecht in the 59th minute and forward Makenzie Langdok had one in the 80th minute. Both were stopped by Bruins goalkeeper Teagan Micah.

Midfielder Emily Heslin said the Bruins played a step ahead of the Gophers in the first half.

“They’re super smart soccer players,” Heslin said. “They were constantly looking for pockets of space to get on the ball and were all over the place.”

Even though the season is over, Minnesota’s senior class of Castro, Heslin, forward April Bockin, midfielder Molly Fiedler and defender Emily Peterson had historic careers. The quintet won a pair of Big Ten titles, something no other Gophers senior class in history has been able to accomplish. 

With Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday, Castro said she is thankful for her fellow seniors.

“I would not have wanted to graduate with any other [people] in my senior class,” Castro said. “There’s a lot of belief and a lot of passion for the sport and this program that we embodied this year. I’m thankful that we were able to come together and do what we could do.”

Golan said she thanked the seniors after the match. For the first time since the 1990s, a Minnesota senior class advanced to three NCAA tournaments, she said. 

“We got to a place where nobody thought we could get to this year,” she said. “[The seniors] won over 50 [matches] over the course of their career. They set a high standard and a great foundation on which we can continue to build.”