High-scoring BYU gives soccer its toughest test to date

Jabari Ritchie

After a disappointing defeat to end its opening weekend and losing co-captain Alison Rackley to injury last Friday, Minnesota’s soccer team could struggle against No. 13 Brigham Young on Saturday.

While the Gophers (1-1) have labored to create offense in the past two seasons, the Cougars averaged nearly four goals per game. Brigham Young’s four returning midfielders outscored the entire Minnesota team by two goals last season.

But the Gophers are still looking for a victory when the teams meet Saturday afternoon at Northwestern.

“I’m not disregarding this by any means,” Minnesota head coach Barbara Wickstrand said. “If we come prepared, put in 110 percent effort and go out there and believe in ourselves, we can come out on top.”

Brigham Young (1-1), beat the Gophers 2-0 last season in the teams’ only other meeting.

To be successful, the Gophers will rely on solid play by their experienced defense and goalkeeper Julie Eibensteiner, who recorded her career shutout number 10 last Friday against Xavier.

Against the Cougars, Minnesota will have to contain several offensive threats, including sophomore All-America midfielder Aleisha Cramer and freshman forward Kim Devine, a member of the Under-19 U.S. National Team. Cramer led Brigham Young with seven goals and 13 assists last season.

To counter, Minnesota needs to put more pressure on opposing defenses.

In Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati, the Gophers had trouble passing to their forwards from the defense and midfield and managed only six shots. The Cougars averaged 26 per game last season.

To win, Wickstrand said, Minnesota may need to play a near-perfect game.

“They really don’t have any weaknesses on the field,” she said. “We have to play a physical game and we’ve got to play one of our best games.”