Soccer bounces back with a pair of wins

Mark Heller

What’s the best way to overcome a sweep by two quality teams in Ohio State and fifth-ranked Penn State?
Apparently the Minnesota soccer team knows: make sure you host Indiana and Purdue the following weekend.
A 2-0 win Friday against the Hoosiers and a 4-0 thrashing of Purdue on Sunday afternoon put some air back into the deflated spirits of the Gophers.
“I was really excited,” Minnesota coach Sue Montagne said. “I believed they could score those kinds of goals all season. It was exciting to see it and the different individuals get them as well.”
Sunday’s four goals against the Boilermakers (6-7 overall, 1-6 in the Big Ten) was the biggest flood of scoring this season for the Gophers (7-5, 5-3). And it was also Minnesota’s fourth-straight shutout at home.
But for the first time this season, the offense reigned. Nicole Lee and Laurie Seidl have been held in check for most of the season after finishing one-two in the Big Ten last season in goals and one-three in total points.
Finally the duo got rolling. Barely three minutes into Sunday’s game, the Gophers were hovering in Purdue’s zone when Erin Holland lofted a pass to Seidl in front of the net. She banged it into the upper corner for a 1-0 lead.
Seven minutes later Alison Rackley, the third forward to Lee and Seidl, centered a pass to Lee who fought to keep the ball. She fought, hung onto it, and left it for Samantha Meyers who knocked in her second goal of the season.
Seidl assisted both Minnesota goals in the second half. Lee scored her fifth of the season and Megan Johnson got her second of the weekend.
Seidl and Lee combined for two goals and three assists.
“I think they were easier to get behind this weekend and get opportunities,” Lee said. “But I think that may be just because they’re not as good as some other teams.”
Minnesota was only one game ahead of the Hoosiers (2-6-4, 1-3-2) entering Friday night’s game, and in the early going, Seidl was determined to single-handedly widen the gap.
Seidl led the team in shots with 31, but last year’s All-Big Ten forward had been through eight games without a goal. She would have had a hat trick by the end of the first half if not for the crossbar and a left-handed diving save by Indiana goalie Ashley Davis.
So Seidl was forced to settle for one goal off a pass from Nicole Lee in the 25th minute of the first half.
“Of course there’s a relief after eight games,” Seidl said. “But our whole team hasn’t been producing much. We’ve been giving great effort and just kept taking the shots. Deep down I think we still have the confidence to keep shooting.”
The Gophers did keep shooting — especially Megan Johnson. With 17 minutes left in the game and a 1-0 lead, Johnson was one-on-one with Davis. Johnson kicked the ball out wide to the left side, taking Davis out of the play. But with nothing but 10 feet of grass between her and the net, she rolled her shot off to the left.
Two minutes later, Johnson took a pass from Liz Wagner on the right side. This time her aim was perfect — she sent a shot past Davis and into the left corner for a 2-0 lead.
“It was a big sense of relief, especially when you miss a wide-open net,” Johnson said. “It was kind of embarrassing.”
Montagne started Eibensteiner in goal instead of usaul starter Dana Larson. She made four saves for the shutout.
“I think that both goalies are very strong,” Montagne said. “When one is struggling and the other is not, you have to go with the one that isn’t struggling. It’s not that ‘oh, we’re just giving Julie a chance,’ Julie deserved the opportunity. She’s worked extremely hard in practice, has been focused, a team player even when she’s not in the game. It was her chance to shine.”
The insertion of Eibensteiner into the lineup was a shake-up for the Gophers. But it was the two already in the lineup, Seidl and Lee, that busted out of a rut and pumped some oxygen back into the Gophers’ tank.
“(Scoring) takes all the pressure off me,” Eibensteiner said. “Especially Friday when we got another goal in the second half. It felt like a load of bricks off my back because we have a cushion. Today we came out and scored and it made things much more relaxing and enjoyable.”

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