Improved soccer team sets sights on roadvictories this season

by Anthony Maggio

Minnesota forward Rachael Roth and goalkeeper Karli Kopietz both received individual accolades this week for their performances against Iowa State and Cincinnati last weekend. Roth scored two game winning goals, and Kopietz recorded two shutouts.

But neither had much time to relish in their awards, as the Gophers take to the road this weekend to open the Big Ten season at Purdue on Friday and Indiana on Sunday.

“This trip is really important because we need to start the Big Ten season with a bang to show people that we’re serious this year about making an impact on the (conference),” Kopietz said. “It’s going to be a great chance for us to show people what we’re about.”

Minnesota (5-1) is in the midst of a five game win streak and is coming off its first ever victory over Cincinnati.

The Gophers have already tied last season’s mark for wins (five) and goals scored (nine), and have surpassed last season’s totals in assists (nine) and points (27).

Minnesota aims to wipe away another mark of futility; the team won twice on the road against Big Ten teams last year. Minnesota’s young squad faces a tough first conference test against Purdue.

The Boilermakers are currently tied for third place in the Big Ten with a 4-1 record. Purdue is ranked 20th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll, which is the highest ranking the Boilermakers have ever received.

Not to mention, Purdue is on a three game win streak and shut out the Gophers last season 3-0 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

“It’s going to be tough because we’re on the road against Purdue and Indiana,” coach Barbara Wickstrand said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but I think we’re up for it.”

Indiana (4-2-1) also beat Minnesota last season at home, but finished with only three conference wins.

To turn things around, the Hoosiers brought in Mick Lyon as their new head coach and aim to make the Big Ten tournament for the first time in three years.

But just because the Gophers are on the road both games doesn’t mean their confidence is wavering.

“They’re both tough competitors,” Minnesota defender Meghan Jones said. “But I think they are both teams we can beat no matter if we’re here or away.”

Winning only two Big Ten games on the road all of last season means Minnesota could turn some heads with a weekend sweep in the Hoosier state.

More importantly, according to Wickstrand, a pair of wins could peak the confidence of her young team and build momentum for what promises to be a grueling Big Ten season.

“I really think this weekend is one of the biggest weekends we’ll have,” Wickstrand said. “It’s the first one (in the Big Ten), and we’re coming off a poor season last year. We want to go in there hard.”