Call it a rollercoaster. Call it the inevitable result of a new coach and a new system. Call it whatever you like, but don’t claim to understand.
Minnesota trounced Iowa but lost to Illinois this weekend, continuing their puzzling play in the first matches of the Big Ten season.
Friday’s game against the Hawkeyes highlighted Minnesota’s regeneration after two embarrassing loses last weekend to non-conference foes Montana and Detroit-Mercy.
After scoring only four goals in their previous five matches, the Gophers took early control of the ball as junior Samantha Meyers scored less than four minutes into the game.
“Friday we were first to the ball and really aggressive,” coach Barbara Wickstrand said. “We used our width well and shot when we had the opportunities.”
Meyers’ goal paved the way for freshman Kecia Lee, sophomores Meghan Jones and Keely Dinse, and senior Laurie Seidl to drive home goals.
Despite a convincing 5-1 win, the game had a low point for the Gophers: all-region and all Big-Ten defender Juli Montgomery was taken out in the early minutes of the game with a broken fibula in her left leg.
Montgomery’s injury leaves her sidelined indefinitely. Meyers stepped in to fill the sweeper role.
“Juli is definitely a loss but it’s not detrimental to our defense,” Wickstrand said.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s that Meyers did great and we’ve found our new sweeper.”
Sunday showed no light for Minnesota as Illinois scored two goals in nineteen seconds during the second half, leaving the lethargic Gophers scrambling in the Illini’s wake.
Adding injury to the scoring insult, Jones was taken down soon after, ending her day.
While Meyers and junior Alison Rackley both played intense games, the team unity apparent Friday was nowhere to be found.
“Against Iowa the entire team was on the same page, everything clicked and we were winning every ball,” Rackley said. “Today we didn’t keep posession or make our shots, and that’s really key.”
With the team disjointed, newcomers Kecia Lee and Rachael Roth both took to the ball and played impressive offensive games for Minnesota in the loss.
And after Friday’s impressive comeback from the disappointing non-conference losses, the Gophers have become experts at reinventing their game in practice after hard-fought losses.
“We lost and we’ll definitely be thinking about it but we’re going to go harder in practice to get ready for this weekend,” Meyers said. “If we can get to our highest level in practice then hopefully we can turn it over to the field.”
Monica Wright covers soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]