Soccer to miss Big Ten tourney for first time

Jabari Ritchie

Big Ten tournament hopes ended over the weekend as Minnesota’s soccer team lost its last conference games.

Minnesota (4-10, 3-7 Big Ten), which was beaten 2-0 at Michigan on Friday and lost 1-0 at Michigan State on Sunday, simply couldn’t find the back of the net.

“Their defense wasn’t that great. We just didn’t finish,” midfielder Alison Rackley said after the loss to the Spartans (7-6-2, 4-4-1). “We had a couple breakaways and (sweeper Samantha Meyers) had a header that went just over the goal. Unlucky chances.”

After being outshot 12-6 by the 24th-ranked Wolverines (9-5-1, 7-2), the Gophers were able to tally 15 shots to Michigan State’s 13.

The Spartans took the lead with Kristi Arrington’s goal off a corner kick in the 28th minute, but Minnesota stormed the opposing net late in the game. The Gophers, who had eight shots on goal to Michigan State’s four, outshot the Spartans nine to three in the second half.

“In the second half, I don’t think Michigan State actually had a shot on goal,” said Minnesota coach Barbara Wickstrand. “We just couldn’t get anything going offensively and threatening on goal.”

The losses were the Gophers’ seventh and eighth shutouts of the season – a new team record. With three games remaining, Minnesota has eight goals – 12 less than last year’s all-time low.

“We didn’t play bad at all this weekend. It was just tough luck,” Minnesota forward Rachael Roth said. “Having them score first was kind of discouraging to our team and we didn’t really keep our heads in it.”

Despite the score of Friday’s game, the Gophers felt it was a stand-out performance in a disappointing year.

“Actually, I’d say it was one of our best games this season,” said midfielder Meghan Jones. “We played around with the ball a lot more. We had some opportunities. We just got unlucky a couple times and they scored.”

It was Minnesota’s third straight shutout loss to the Wolverines, who now have a 3-6 record against the Gophers.

Defender Andrea Kayal put the Wolverines up with a direct kick goal 18 minutes into the game. In the 62nd minute, freshman forward Liz Dosa found the ball in traffic and iced the game with her first career goal.

Dosa’s goal was the only score of the weekend that didn’t result from a dead ball opportunity.

“They had a good amount of shots, but I think our defense kind of held them,” Roth said. “Our defense did a really good job of limiting the shots in the back… They didn’t have any spectacular scoring. They scored on free kicks.”

With Minnesota’s third weekend sweep of the season, the Gophers were eliminated from conference tournament contention for the first time in the nine-year history of the soccer program.

“We’re not going to the Big Ten tournament, which has never happened,” said Rackley, a senior. “That’s kind of a shock to some of us, especially the older kids.”

Two Minnesota players, goalkeeper Julie Eibensteiner and defender Sarah FitzGerald, were redshirted during the Gophers’ 1997 Big Ten championship season.

Minnesota’s seniors have also played in two NCAA tournaments.

“I just feel very bad for the seniors,” said Roth, a sophomore. “I think we deserved to go. We just had kind of an unlucky season.”