Gophers have a chance to ride momentum on the road

Minnesota will play two of its last three conference games this weekend.

by Nick Gerhardt

It’s amazing what one victory will do for a team.

Just a week ago Minnesota had lost three consecutive matches and stared at the prospect of facing the No. 8 nationally ranked Penn State Nittany Lady Lions.

Then everything changed as the Gophers stunned the Lady Lions when they scored in the second overtime for a 1-0 victory. The win went down as the greatest upset in history for the program and re-energized a team entering the final three games of the regular season.

“We have a little extra bounce in our step,” junior midfielder Kaitlin Wagner said.

This weekend the Gophers travel to Northwestern for a 3 p.m. game tonight and Wisconsin for a 1 p.m. matchup Sunday, with a sense of urgency on their minds as the season winds down.

“I’ve never seen our team play together like that. It was the first time I’ve seen a total team effort,” senior midfielder Hailey McCarthy said of the win against the Lady Lions. “Each of these next three games is winnable.”

Minnesota (7-7-1 overall, 3-4-0 Big Ten) now sits in a prime position to move up the ranks of the Big Ten conference this weekend after upsetting Penn State.

“We could potentially be in third place if everything falls into place,” Wagner said.

Things certainly fell into place for the Gophers against the Lady Lions as the backline trio of freshmen displayed their finest effort of the season in shutting down the Big Ten leading scorer Katie Schoepfer.

Coach Mikki Denney Wright moved freshman defender Kylie Kallman from her centerback postion to outside defender in order to stifle Schoepfer. She did just that and as a result Kallman received Big Ten co-defensive player of the week honors.

Kallman shared the honors with the Wildcats goalkeeper Lauren Johnston who posted her third shutout in four games last weekend.

Northwestern (7-5-4 overall, 2-3-2 Big Ten) sits in seventh place in the conference and went nearly five regulation matches without a goal before they exploded for a 4-0 victory over Michigan State.

Two Minnesota natives guide the Wildcats’ attack and lead the team in points.

Forward Kelsey Hans, who hails from Lakeville, has tallied three goals and one assist in conference play and has seven goals on the season. Midfielder Shannon Schneeman, a St. Paul native, has seven goals on the season for Northwestern.

The Badgers, (5-9-1 overall, 1-6-0 Big Ten) however, have struggled all season, getting outscored 15-3 in Big Ten games.

Their only win came against Ohio State on Oct. 5 in a 1-0 game.

Forwards Taylor Walsh and Tricia Krombac lead the team in points as Walsh has registered four goals and Krombac has three on the season.

Denney Wright said both teams play solid defense and the Gophers will need to establish themselves quickly.

“Northwestern has gotten better defensively and Wisconsin plays a really defensive system,” she said. “It’s important that we break them down early.”

Denney Wright likes how her team has looked all season long and feels the recent win against Penn State came at just the right time.

“At the end of the year you want your team to peak and this team feels good.”