Soccer seeks relief in Michigan

Jim Schortemeyer

The Minnesota women’s soccer team may be thankful that their weekend is over, after dropping games against Wisconsin and Northwestern, but the schedule makers are giving the Gophers little respite from a difficult early schedule in the Big Ten.
Minnesota will take on the state of Michigan this weekend, in matches against Michigan State and 24th-ranked Michigan.
The game Friday against the Spartans (2-6-1 overall, 0-4 in the Big Ten) might give the Gophers a chance to recover, but after that game, they’ll run right back into the fire. After facing Michigan (6-2-1, 1-2-1) Saturday, Minnesota will face undefeated No. 6 Penn State next weekend.
Probation for the offense
The Gophers’ offensive production was down this weekend. How far down? Coming into the weekend series Minnesota was averaging 4.2 goals per game, but the Gophers managed just one goal against Northwestern — their only goal of the weekend.
The reason for the letdown seemed to be a lack of preparedness for the level of play provided by now 9th-ranked Northwestern and No. 21 Wisconsin.
“Until Friday’s game, we had not been challenged,” coach Sue Montagne said.
With the slow weekend, Minnesota now ranks third in goals in the Big Ten with 26, three behind front-runner Illinois, and the defense has dropped to fifth in goals per game, at a pace of 1.13 per contest.
The duo of Nicole Lee and Laurie Seidl are still on top of the conference. Lee’s 20 points is tied for the Big Ten lead. Seidl, last year’s Big Ten Newcomer of the Year, is alone in third with 18 points.
Up to their knees in it
Sunday’s game against the Wildcats was a wild one in more ways than just the near-misses for the Minnesota offense.
Northwestern was welcomed to the St.Paul field in a most unwelcome fashion — their bus became embedded in the mud while trying to turn around. The parking area — which has no paved area — was almost totally blocked off for three hours while the bus awaited its salvation in the form of a winch.
Might as well face it
There were a few famous faces in the crowd of 592 at the St.Paul Campus field Sunday for the matchup with the Wildcats. University President Mark Yudof and his wife, Judy, were in the crowd, as was Gophers basketball forward and co-captain Quincy Lewis.
Lewis stayed away from the stands, apparently to stave off would-be autograph seekers. Yudof proved he was bolder than Lewis, sitting in the middle of the bleachers.
Minnesota will be on the road for their next three games, returning to St. Paul Oct. 11 against Ohio State. The Buckeyes have never beaten the Gophers.

Rankings
Penn State leads all Big Ten teams in the national rankings, at sixth. Perennial title contender North Carolina (8-0) still tops the poll.
Northwestern moved up from No. 11 to ninth, Wisconsin made the list for the first time at No. 21 and Michigan reappeared at No. 24.