Oft-traveled Gophers return home

Minnesota is set to face Indiana and Purdue in a weekend home series.

by Drew Claussen

After playing eight of its last 10 games away from Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium, the Gophers soccer team will finish its Big Ten schedule at home.

âÄúThe way the Big Ten has worked out weâÄôve just traveled an enormous amount this year,âÄù head coach Mikki Denney Wright said. âÄúI think itâÄôs just good for our kids [to be home]. TheyâÄôre also in school so it helps them a lot with their studies.âÄù

Minnesota (6-8-2, 3-3-2 Big Ten) will host Indiana on Friday and Purdue on Sunday.

âÄúIâÄôve got to give this group a lot of credit âÄî weâÄôve definitely dug deep, nothing has come easy,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúIâÄôve told them theyâÄôve taken the hardest way up the mountain so IâÄôm really impressed with their perseverance.âÄù

According to Denney Wright, many of her players seem to be playing their best soccer of the year right now.

The Gophers sit tied for sixth in the Big Ten and will need a strong weekend as both teams they will play are below them in the standings. The top eight teams in conference at the end of the year play in the Big Ten Tournament on Nov. 2-6.

Minnesota is coming off a weekend in which it lost to Illinois before rebounding with junior Allie PhillipsâÄô game-winner to beat Northwestern 1-0.

âÄú[The Northwestern win] was extremely important because weâÄôre kind of on the edge to get into the Big Ten Tournament,âÄù Phillips said. âÄúThat was a huge win.âÄù

Phillips, who started 18 games as a freshman and eight as a sophomore, has adapted to being called on to come off the bench.

âÄúYou just have to be mentally prepared every time you come off the bench so that when you come on the field youâÄôre making the game better and your touch is on,âÄù Phillips said.

Denney Wright used only two substitutes Sunday and has used fewer subs in general near the end of the season.

âÄúWhen youâÄôre a possession-orientated team you really can use very few subs,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúThis time of year our kids are super fit. ItâÄôs the end of the year [and] theyâÄôve played a lot of minutes, so we donâÄôt have a fitness issue right now.âÄù

Although the end of the regular season is quickly approaching, Phillips said that there are still ways that the team can improve.

âÄúWe havenâÄôt gotten as many opportunities as we want to so I think we need to finish more chances,âÄù Phillips said. âÄúI think our defending has been good but finishing more chances would be good.âÄù

Indiana is coming off a weekend in which it lost to Purdue 8-2 and Michigan State 2-1 in overtime. 

Junior Orianica Velasquez leads the Hoosiers in scoring with seven goals and two assists.

After beating Indiana, the Boilermakers lost to Michigan 3-1 last weekend. Senior Kellie Phillips and freshman Alex Hairston are tied for PurdueâÄôs team lead in goals with six. Chinyelu Asher was Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week last week.