Gophers end Big Ten soccer season with a 4-3 home loss to Wisconsin

Adam Fink

There was a pregame ceremony honoring the seniors. There was the natural border rivalry. And there was a message to send.

While it appeared Minnesota’s soccer team was finally clicking on offense, the Gophers couldn’t pull out a victory, losing 4-3 to Wisconsin at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Friday night.

The Gophers (5-9-2, 2-7-1 Big Ten) finished the conference season in 10th place.

Wisconsin, which automatically makes the Big Ten tournament because it is the host school, earned the eighth – and final – seed after Northwestern lost to Illinois.

“We wanted to show the rest of the conference we deserved to be in the tournament (by finishing eighth),” freshman Allison Raino said. “I feel bad for the seniors who showed so much courage and pride out there.”

A pregame ceremony honoring seniors Anna Nudell Lee and co-captain Amanda McMahon appeared to ignite the Gophers.

Minnesota scored first for only the fourth time in Big Ten competition.

McMahon maneuvered through the center of the defense and passed to teammate Becky Dellaria, who burst past a defender.

Dellaria scored in a one-on-one situation with the Badgers goaltender at the 9:12 mark.

“The lead gave us a boost,” Minnesota coach Barbara Wickstrand said.

Only 37 seconds after Wisconsin’s Katy Lindemuth scored the first of her two goals, Minnesota’s Laura Hoppe answered.

After Dellaria’s shot hit the right goaltending crossbar and bounced ahead, Hoppe nailed the put-back with approximately 29 minutes remaining until halftime.

However, Lindemuth’s second goal of the night five minutes before halftime tied the score and turned momentum.

“If we would have gone into halftime up 2-1, it would have been a different game,” Raino said.

After the break, Wisconsin left off where it ended the first stanza.

Marisa Brown and Kara Kabellis scored for Wisconsin, and with 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Badgers fans – who had strong numbers among the 811 in attendance – began to celebrate.

A late goal by Hoppe closed the deficit to 4-3 and gave the sophomore a career-high two goals in the game.

But Minnesota didn’t manage to get closer against Wisconsin goalie Stefani Szczechowski.

“I hate to lose,” said Wickstrand, who in an attempt to pump up the Gophers wore Wisconsin clothing to practice last week. “We were fired up.”

Making her fourth straight start for Minnesota, goalie Marni Prall looked solid against the Badgers. Prall was credited with five saves, three of which drew applause from the Gophers fans because of the difficulty.

Minnesota finishes its season this weekend at Drake and Iowa State. The two nonconference games will not make up for a rough finish to the Big Ten season but at least would end the year on a positive note.

The Gophers’ last Big Ten win came Oct. 3 against Northwestern.

“We still have two more games,” Wickstrand said. “We want to continue to learn from our mistakes and finish the year with some success.”

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Goaltender Karli Kopietz, who started Minnesota’s first 12 games, will not return this season, Wickstrand said.

Kopietz is on academic probation and will not play in the team’s final two games.

The sophomore spent last week studying while the team was practicing.

Kopietz’s saves percentage of .730 is down from last season, while her 2.19 goals allowed per game is up.

Big Ten field set

The Big Ten season ended for all 11 schools Friday night and the conference tournament field is set.

Penn State won the conference regular season title for the sixth consecutive year.

Illinois, Purdue, Michigan and Ohio State round out the next four teams who finished with a winning conference record.

Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin earned the final three seeds.