Gophers stumble in weekend losses

Bob Wothe

After its third straight 1-0 loss, Minnesota soccer coach Mikki Denney Wright said her team has to work on just one thing this week: rest.

“We worked on finishing and finishing (offensively) all last week,” Denney Wright said. “We’re asking our frontrunners to play 90 minutes every game and we just need to rest the kids this week.”

The Gophers battled two of the top teams in the Big Ten to the bitter end in a pair of 1-0 losses this weekend. They fell to 16th-ranked Michigan in double overtime Friday and Michigan State Sunday.

Against Michigan, the Gophers (3-6-0, 0-4-0 Big Ten) faced an offensive onslaught early in the game, but solid goalkeeping from Molly Schneider kept the match scoreless all the way through regulation.

Becky Dellaria had three shots on goal and multiple runs for the Gophers but was turned away each time by Michigan goalkeeper Megan Tuura.

“We’ve got to start scoring,” Dellaria said. “We’re outplaying teams; we just need to finish with a goal.”

The Wolverines began to assert themselves in the 60th minute and had multiple scoring chances as the ball trickled untouched through the box on several occasions. As time expired, Michigan’s Melissa Dobbyn fired one of her 13 shots – six more than the Gophers had as a whole – just wide.

The first overtime went scoreless as a Gophers centering pass was gobbled up by Tuura just before Kaitlin Neary got to it.

But in the second overtime, the game ended sourly for the Gophers. A corner kick for the Wolverines, who outshot the Gophers 25-7, was deflected in the box and shot off the crossbar by Kandice McLaughlin. After being bounced around the box some more, the ball finally found its way back to her foot, and she put it in the back of the net.

“All overtime goals come on some fluke thing like that,” Denney Wright said. “We just didn’t execute clearing the ball out after the corner.”

After the disappointing loss, the Gophers said they came out flat Sunday against the Spartans.

“This certainly wasn’t our best effort,” said defender Jen Cressman, who was injured in the first half. “We had a tough game Friday, but that’s no excuse to come out and not play on Sunday.”

Joining Cressman on the injury report was her replacement, Lisa Berg, who was appearing in just her second match this year. Their injuries will be further evaluated today.

The Spartans scored in the 21st minute, after Emma Harris’ crossing pass found Erin Konheim wide open on the back post. Konheim’s shot sailed past Schneider, across the goal and into the far corner.

“We just didn’t mark the girl on the back post,” defender Laura Hoppe said. “We needed to stay tighter.”

The Gophers spent a lot of time in the Spartans’ zone in the second half, as the team had multiple scoring chances and tallied 18 shots – their highest total of the Big Ten season. But they got just five on goal and were unable to put any past Spartans keeper Erin Carlson, who recorded her fourth shutout of the season. Time ran out amid several Spartans kicks out of bounds as the Gophers tried to make one final push.

“We’re right there, I can’t say that enough,” Denney Wright said. “When you’re building a team, this is the hardest part – taking the next step. And that’s hard for these kids when they haven’t done it before.”