Gophers’ soccer finishes road trip and heads home

Minnesota will play at Wisconsin before returning home to face a tough Penn State squad.

by Drew Claussen

After an up and down weekend at Michigan and Michigan State, the Gophers soccer team will try to get back on track with a pair of games against the Big TenâÄôs best.

Minnesota (4-6-1, 1-1-1 Big Ten) will travel to Madison, Wis., tonight to take on Wisconsin before returning home to face Penn State on Sunday.

The Gophers defeated Michigan 3-2 last Friday on a Taylor Uhl goal with 58 seconds left. Their high was short-lived, however, as Michigan State shut them out 3-0 on Sunday.

âÄúMichigan State wasnâÄôt exactly the outcome we wished to have, but I think we can learn from it and move on,âÄù junior goalkeeper Cat Parkhill said.

In a way, last weekendâÄôs split mirrored the way the season has played out for a Gophers team that has struggled with consistency.

âÄúWe are an inconsistent group right now. WeâÄôre trying to find our flow and I hope we find it soon,âÄù head coach Mikki Denney Wright said. âÄúI think itâÄôs a factor of a young, unseasoned group. We just havenâÄôt done a good enough job coaching them.âÄù

One thing Denney Wright and the team have yet to figure out is where each player fits in her system. The Gophers have played many different formations this year and are still trying to find the right pairings of players.

âÄúWeâÄôre still trying to work on personnel, spots and our best formation,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúWeâÄôve been working on that all year. WeâÄôre still moving kids around.âÄù

Junior Olivia Bagnall has been key to the GophersâÄô developing system with her versatility. Bagnall has played multiple positions in the midfield and defense this season.

âÄúWeâÄôve switched a lot of formations, just trying to see what our team feels most comfortable with and what we can work on to attack and defend well at the same time,âÄù Bagnall said. âÄúItâÄôs been a challenge but I think our team is coming together.âÄù

Wisconsin (7-3-1, 2-0-1 Big Ten) also spent last weekend in Michigan, where it dealt Michigan State its first conference loss before playing Michigan to a scoreless draw.

Freshman Cara Walls scored both goals in the BadgersâÄô 2-1 win and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week. Walls leads Wisconsin with six goals on the year.

Penn State (9-3, 2-1 Big Ten) is coming off of a solid weekend in which it shut out Northwestern and Illinois at home.

Sophomore Maya Hayes, who has racked up 15 goals on the year, leads Penn StateâÄôs potent attack. She is among nine Nittany Lions to have scored a goal this year and among 15 to have scored a point.

Penn State has outscored its opponents 31-10 on the year, while Minnesota has a 16-15 scoring edge over its opponents.

After playing Penn State on Sunday, Minnesota will play its next three games on the road.