Iowa’s defense to test Gophers

The Gophers host Iowa on Sunday.

Minnesota forward Taylor Uhl dribbles the ball upfield against Wisconsin on Sept. 27 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Anthony Kwan, Daily File Photo

Minnesota forward Taylor Uhl dribbles the ball upfield against Wisconsin on Sept. 27 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Betsy Helfand

Minnesota’s football team was crushed last weekend by Iowa. A week later, the Gophers’ other football team seeks a different result against the same school.

The Gophers soccer team will play the Hawkeyes this Sunday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Iowa enters the match with an 11-1-2 record (2-1-2 Big Ten), but Minnesota has competed well with top competition this season.

Sophomore forward Taylor Uhl said Sunday’s 4-3 loss to then-No. 8 Penn State proved that.

“We played even with a top-10 team. I think that got our heads up,” Uhl said.

The Nittany Lions have given up only three goals to two other teams: Stanford and BYU. Both teams are in the top 25.

“Truly the only thing that separates us from the top 25 is actually one goal as far as conceding one more than scoring,” assistant coach Deana Waintraub said.

Minnesota gave up two of its goals off corner kicks.

“It was just a few little things that have been happening all year in the games that we’ve lost,” senior midfielder Olivia Bagnall said, “and unfortunately it was set pieces and a breakaway.”

The team has put in a lot of work on defensive set pieces recently, and Bagnall said the team would continue that work this week.

“I think everyone’s pretty frustrated that it happened twice against Penn State because we could have won without that,” Bagnall said.

Minnesota didn’t allow a goal off a set piece in two games the previous weekend.

Waintraub said she thought the goalkeepers have stepped up nicely, but defending set pieces is a matter of repetition.

“There has to be transference from the technical to the functional to the actual play,” Waintraub said.

Uhl said the team struggles with set pieces on both ends of the field.

“We get scored on too much, and we don’t put away enough on the attacking side,” she said.

She said the team doesn’t work on offensive set pieces as much as she would like to in practice, but most players arrive early to practice and have time to work on them before that.

The Gophers devote more time to defensive set pieces because they are more about organization, whereas offensive set pieces are about being creative, according to Uhl.

The Gophers will have to be creative offensively because the Hawkeyes have a 0.49 goals-against average this season, which ranks second in the Big Ten.

“They have a strong defense, [but] we will hopefully keep the ball in their half,” Bagnall said.

Iowa is coming off two 0-0 ties against Michigan and Michigan State.

Waintraub said that from the film the team watched, Iowa played “pretty compact” against Michigan and Michigan State, but she said that could differ Sunday.

“We’re just going to stay true to our style of play — possess and press, and we will get our opportunities,” Waintraub said.

Uhl said she played against Melanie Pickert and Caitlin Brown, two of Iowa’s defenders when she was growing up.

“I definitely think I’m faster than both of them, so I think we can get behind [them] if we play it right,” she said.

The Gophers lead the all-time series against Iowa 10-3-2, and they haven’t lost to the Hawkeyes since 2007.

Minnesota will honor team alumni at Sunday’s game to mark the 20th year in program history.