Minnesota falls short in Big Ten title game

Sophomore forward Molly Rouse puts some foot behind a ball during Friday’s 1-0 semi-final win over Purdue.

Ashley Goetz

Sophomore forward Molly Rouse puts some foot behind a ball during Friday’s 1-0 semi-final win over Purdue.

IOWA CITY, IOWA âÄî Strong play helped the Minnesota womenâÄôs soccer team to a good finish in the Big Ten tournament this past weekend, but no championship. As the Gophers took to the field against Purdue on Friday it was another game in which all the elements conspired against both teams. Intermittent light drizzle with 15 to 20 mph winds created a driving sleet that made play a bit chilly for the athletes in the semifinal round of the tournament. Gophers head coach Mikki Denney Wright had her players run along the sidelines to keep warm. âÄúItâÄôs always âĦ a sloppy game,âÄù senior forward Lindsey Schwartz said. âÄúYou just have to find some way to put the ball in the back of the net.âÄù FridayâÄôs first goal came early in the first half. Senior midfielder Clare Grimwood put Minnesota up 1-0 in the ninth minute of play. The Gophers continued to keep the pressure on Purdue, outshooting the Boilermakers 11-1 in the first half. More than one attempt deflected off the crossbar. âÄúWe knew it would be a tough game, and it was,âÄù Denney Wright said. Minnesota hung on to its lead, defeating the Boilermakers 1-0 to advance to the championship round of the Big Ten tournament. SundayâÄôs championship game pitted the Gophers against Penn State, one of just two teams the Gophers have not had success against this year. âÄúItâÄôs going to be a sweet, sweet revenge,âÄù Grimwood said prior to SundayâÄôs game. Unfortunately for the Gophers that revenge will have to wait for another day. A close goal by Penn State freshman Emma Thomson gave the Nittany Lions an early 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute of play. Penn StateâÄôs first goal was very difficult to call. The ball passed in front of the goal and managed to cross the goal line, though it was difficult to see clearly. A goal near the end of the first half tied the game up for Minnesota. A brilliant cross from Katie Bethke caught Penn State keeper Alyssa Naeher off guard. In the midst of a struggle in front of the goal Shari Eckstrom was able to catch her own rebound to tally her third goal of the season. In the closing seconds of the half Penn State made another push toward the goal. Midfielder Zoe Bouchelle was able to recover a ball that inadvertently hit forward Megan Monroig and send it back to Monroig, whose shot narrowly sailed wide of the net. Despite MinnesotaâÄôs efforts, a goal by Danielle Toney put the Nittany Lions in control of a 2-1 lead midway through the second half. Though Minnesota created several opportunities, they were unable to come back from the deficit. âÄúWe had opportunities,âÄù Eckstrom said. âÄúWe need to finish opportunities when we have them.âÄù Katie Schoepfer and Toney were two players that presented the team with difficulties, Denney Wright said. âÄúTheyâÄôre just dangerous,âÄù she said. âÄúTheyâÄôre a very, very good team. TheyâÄôre playing their best soccer right now.âÄù Though only one yellow card was drawn and only 26 fouls were called, each side presented a game that was full of physical play and left players littered on the field. âÄúIt was just a hard-fought soccer game because the kids cared,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúWe matched up well, but they were the better team today.âÄù The Gophers will have to wait until MondayâÄôs NCAA selection process to see where they will play in the first round of the NCAA tournament.