Offense shines through for soccer in split

Jabari Ritchie

After Minnesota’s soccer team tallied just two shots in two games a week ago, the Gophers found their offense in games against Illinois and Iowa over the weekend.

Using a new system of four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards, Minnesota had a total of 25 shots in Friday’s 2-0 victory over the Illini and a 1-0 loss to the Hawkeyes on Sunday.

“It was nice to play some offense again,” said Gophers forward Rachael Roth, who scored both goals against Illinois and had seven shots against Iowa. “I think there was a lot more support behind us so we could play it and get it back.”

By adding a midfielder and using one fewer forward, Minnesota was able to hold onto the ball longer, give its forwards more opportunities and contain its opponents’ offenses.

“It took the pressure off the defense a lot,” said goalkeeper Julie Eibensteiner, who had 11 saves in her third shutout of the season Friday and had four saves before giving up a late goal against Iowa.

“We appreciate it more when they can start holding the ball up there and maybe put the other team back on their heels a little bit.”

On Sunday, the Hawkeyes spent most of the game in their own zone. The Gophers outshot an opponent for the first time this season with 19 shots to Iowa’s 11.

Against Illinois, Minnesota was outshot 26-6, but many of the Illini’s shots were taken outside of the goal box.

“I’ll give 30- or 40-yard shots all day long,” said Gophers coach Barbara Wickstrand. “If you don’t let them kick from within the 18, Julie’s pretty much going to be able to save it.”

In Friday’s game – Minnesota’s home opener – Illinois goalkeeper Leisha Alcia had just one save.

In the 36th minute, sweeper Samantha Meyers won the ball in the Gophers’ end and sent it downfield to Roth, who chipped it over Alcia into the goal.

“As soon as I looked up, I saw the hole and I saw Rachael running so I just played it right away,” Meyers said. “She ran perfectly right on to it and got the goal. It was awesome.”

The second goal, scored in the 57th minute, resulted from a Roth corner kick. The ball appeared to have been deflected by an Illini defender, but Roth was credited with the goal.

Sunday, despite holding Iowa to fewer scoring opportunities, Minnesota gave up a goal on a corner kick in the 87th minute.

The goal, scored by Hawkeyes substitute midfielder Katie Clymer, came after a barrage of opportunities by the Gophers.

“We just didn’t capitalize on our chances,” said forward Alison Rackley, who played 80 minutes Friday and a full game Sunday after returning from an ankle injury two weeks ago. “We outshot a team, finally, but we couldn’t put one in the net. It’s frustrating because we played well enough to win but we didn’t get the W.”

In the last 10 minutes of the game, Iowa goalkeeper Britta Vogele stopped Roth on two one-on-one opportunities, including a breakaway in the 83rd minute.

“I had a lot of shots on goal and I just couldn’t finish them,” said Roth, who has scored or assisted every Minnesota goal this season. “On my breakaway, I should have placed it but I kind of looked up at the goalie and shot it right at her.”

Roth compared the Iowa game to the Gophers’ 1-0 win at Ohio State two weeks ago.

“We were playing defense the whole game at Ohio State and then we got that lucky corner at the end,” she said. “We just need to finish I guess.”