Minnesota’s bench keys soccer tourney success

Mark Heller

Freshman Keely Dinse hasn’t seen much playing time this season — it’s hard when you’re playing most of the season behind senior all-Big Ten forward Nicole Lee.
Almost every time Lee came out of games during last weekend’s Big Ten soccer tournament, Dinse went in.
Dinse and Lee were on the field together during Minnesota’s opening game against Ohio State and Dinse set up Lee’s insurance goal that gave the Gophers a 2-0 win.
“I’m so excited for her,” Gophers coach Sue Montagne said following the game. “Throughout the season, Keely started as a huge athlete but not really understanding the game and the tactics. Today she’s progressed, and hasn’t gotten many minutes, but when she comes in, she’s made stuff happen. She defended like crazy, and flicked the ball to Nicole which was huge.”
Dinse and senior forward Megan Johnson led the bench charge last weekend. Once again, the stat sheet doesn’t tell the whole story, and there is a bigger story Minnesota hopes to further develop against Eastern Michigan in Wednesday’s first round NCAA game.
Johnson scored two of Minnesota’s three goals in the two games played, Dinse had her first collegiate point on her assist, but the Gophers also got strong contributions from Amy Koehler, Jordan Bieler, Erika Kruse, Meghan Jones and others.
Last week, Montagne said one of the keys to the Big Ten tournament was bench play and “who is left standing and has the will by Sunday.”
Montagne’s team wasn’t still standing Sunday, but she was extremely happy with the team’s performance in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to top-seeded Penn State. The team is hoping the bench surplus continues in the Gophers’ run in the NCAA tournament.
“Sometimes I like (coming off the bench) better,” Johnson said. “I think every game I’ve started this year I’ve played worse than coming off the bench. I think a lot of pressure is off you. You get a lot of momentum watching and getting excited and then you have that momentum coming into the game.”
The Lions also noticed, not just the play on the field, but the cheering section the players set up on the bench.
“They complement each other really well,” Penn State senior forward Courtney Lawson. “The whole team seemed pretty emotional. They wanted to win and were playing with a lot of heart. You could hear it on their bench with the players cheering. It was kind of desperate, they were down a goal and the people off the bench were just as fired up to go in.”

Crime box
The all-Big Ten awards were passed out late last week. Sophomore defender Juli Montgomery made the first team. Lee and junior Laurie Seidl got the nod on the second team.
In reference to Montgomery, Montagne said it would have been “an absolute crime if she didn’t get first-team honors.”
Both Montagne and Lions coach Pat Farmer noticed the absence of Minnesota junior midfielder Erin Holland from the honorees. Farmer was especially impressed after watching Holland on Saturday.
“That was bad coaching on my part, and I’d be embarrassed to tell you that she wasn’t someone I picked out,” Farmer said. “She was tremendous. At halftime our assistant coach told our guys that the shortest player on the field had the most headers. She gets up for everything and she was all over the field. I always thought she was a good competent player before but she is special.”

The road less traveled
Michigan won the conference championship 4-2 over Penn State on Sunday, but getting to the championship game was tougher than the game itself.
The No. 2 seed Wolverines played seventh-seeded Michigan State on Saturday. Michigan outshot the Spartans 32-6, but Spartans goalie Sara Kloosterman made 15 saves to keep the game at 1-0.
Michigan State played most of the second half one player short after getting a red card, but tied the game 1-1 with nine minutes left.
The Wolverines won the game three minutes into overtime when a shot hit the crossbar and bounced off the back of Kloosterman for the game-winning goal.

Mark Heller covers soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]