Minnesota advances in NCAA tourney

Mark Heller

Minnesota didn’t know much about Eastern Michigan heading into Wednesday night’s first-round NCAA game, but there was one aspect of the game which didn’t need a scouting report.
If you keep shooting and shooting, eventually one of those shots is going to go in — no matter who is in goal. The Gophers pelted the Eagles with shots to win 2-0.
Eagles goalkeeper Sarah Willis entered the game with almost every Mid-American conference acknowledgement possible. She’s earned first team all-MAC honors with 13 shutouts in 20 games.
Bottom line: she was allowing 0.38 goals per game.
The Gophers (13-8) pounded her with 26 shots and forced her to make 16 saves. It was the two shots she didn’t stop that gave Minnesota a 2-0 win and a trip to Nebraska on Sunday.
When asked if she had to make that many saves in one game this season, all Willis said was, “I don’t think so.”
“We were fired up and ready to go,” Gophers coach Sue Montagne said. “We took some chances up front and got either shots off or corner kicks.”
Junior Laurie Seidl got her shots off. Her header off senior Megan Johnson’s free kick went over Willis and freshman Liz Wagner was there to head it in for her first collegiate goal. Her goal gave the Gophers a 1-0 lead 25 minutes into the first half.
The assist was Seidl’s 12th of the season, second on Minnesota’s single-season assist list.
So what?
“News to me,” was all the soft-spoken Seidl said.
She wasn’t finished though. A long pass by Amy Koehler was deflected off an Eastern Michigan player. Seidl got in front of an Eagles defender, stopped suddenly, switched the ball to her left foot and ripped a left-footer off Willis’ hand and in for a 2-0 lead.
“I was expecting a shot and then (Seidl) drew back,” Willis said. “I should have had it. I got a hand on it, but it wasn’t enough to get it over the crossbar.”
In the meantime, Minnesota’s defense quenched any thirst the Eagles had to score. MAC first-team forward Amanda Kulikowski, who led the team with 34 points, was held to one shot. The Eagles had just five shots on the night.
“We could have had a couple more chances,” she said. “We didn’t have chances to get through or any support.”
Senior goalie Dana Larson only had to make three saves, two of those in the second half.
“I got pretty chilly in the first half,” Larson said. “My hands warmed up in the second half. I tried to stay focused, but it got slow in the second half.”
Minnesota isn’t expecting things to be slow on Sunday against fourth-seeded Nebraska in Lincoln. If Montagne’s analogy about the Cornhuskers turns out to be accurate, Sunday’s game could be a lot like the Gophers’ tough loss to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament last weekend.
“They’re a fast and physical team,” Montagne said. “I think they’re a lot like Penn State with they’re really on. We have a history with them.”

Mark Heller covers soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]