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Loss to Penn State hurts Gophers’ postseason plans

Inability to score goals in conference play once again plagued the Minnesota soccer team as it fell to No. 11 Penn State.

The Gophers salvaged a split this weekend after falling 1-0 to the Nittany Lions by bouncing back with a 2-1 win against South Dakota State on Sunday.

The struggling Minnesota attack was once again unable to get much going against a very talented Penn State team. The Gophers managed just four shots, only two of which were on net, and were held scoreless for the fifth time in Big Ten play.

Coach Mikki Denney Wright said she was pleased with the way her squad played against a team with as many guns as Penn State, but said it’s tough to win when you don’t score any goals.

“Against a team like Penn State most of the chances you’re going to get are counterattack chances,” she said. “We got some of those chances and we didn’t really put them away.”

Although Minnesota (8-7-1 overall, 1-6-0 Big Ten) was unable to put up any points against Penn State, the Gophers’ defense was able to limit one of the best offenses in the Big Ten to just one goal.

The Nittany Lions (10-3-3, 6-1-1) came into the game averaging nearly two goals and more than 17 shots per game. Minnesota’s defensive pressure held Penn State to 15 shots, only six of which were on goal. The one goal allowed makes Minnesota the third Big Ten team to hold Penn State to one goal or less.

Junior defender Hailey McCarthy attributed much of the defensive success to some of the defenders staying aggressive on the ball and the rest of the defense staying back and covering.

“In previous games, we’ve had a tough time finding that balance,” she said. “But this game we hit it right on. Being aggressive on the ball and being very tough on the back line helped us have a really good game against Penn State.”

South Dakota State (4-9-2, 1-1-0 United Soccer Conference) was the last nonconference opponent for the Gophers this season, and Minnesota was finally able to break out and put up some offensive production.

The Gophers were able to accumulate 23 shots with nine on goal. Denney Wright said her team came out very hard in the game and played well.

“We dominated on the attack,” she said. “We had a lot of opportunities, and I thought our midfield played especially well today.”

The midfield was responsible for three of the nine shots on goal for Minnesota, and sophomore Kelsey Hood had the first goal of the game in the 23rd minute. The second came from sophomore forward Lindsey Schwartz in the 68th minute, which secured the win for the Gophers.

Sophomore midfielder Marti Klinsing said she was happy with the game for the most part.

“Usually on Sundays we come out a little lethargic because we’ve already played a game on Friday and we’re a little tired,” she said. “But today we came out a little more pumped up knowing that we could get the win and knowing that we had been struggling.”

With three Big Ten games left, Minnesota is in a do-or-die situation. It is likely the Gophers will need to win their last three games to get a bid to the Big Ten Tournament.

Freshman defender Lyndsey Mueller said the team still has some stuff to work on and is never 100 percent pleased with where it’s at.

“I don’t think we’re ever completely satisfied with our play,” she said. “We need to come back and practice hard and get ready for next weekend’s game.”

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