Gophers fall in first round of NCAA Tournament

Minnesota played two overtimes before losing to penalty kicks.

Gophers goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs kicks the ball into play on Oct. 9, 2016 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Chris Dang, Daily File Photo

Gophers goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs kicks the ball into play on Oct. 9, 2016 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

by Dominic Davis

A historic season for Minnesota ended sooner than anticipated Saturday — and it all came down to a shootout.

The Gophers lost to North Carolina State in penalty kicks in the first round of the NCAA tournament after neither team scored through two overtimes.

“Most teams end the year with a loss, and we end it with a tie and don’t advance in [penalty kicks],” said head coach Stefanie Golan. “[It’s] really disappointing for everything they put into the year.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Wootten was the hero for NC State.

In addition to two shots in regulation, she saved two penalties in the shootout to lead her team past the Gophers.

“The nice thing about penalties is nobody expects the keeper to do anything,” Wootten said. “It’s all in favor of the striker. If you make a save, great. You do whatever you can.”

NC State (11-8-1, 4-5-1 ACC) converted all four of its penalties in the shootout.

Freshman midfielder Ricarda Walkling hit the ball to the right side of the goal to end the shootout and advance her team to the second round.

“We didn’t look at ourselves as underdogs,” said NC State head coach Tim Santoro. “We knew they were very good. Playing a top-10 team on the road wasn’t something we hadn’t done before.”

In the first half, No. 4 seed Minnesota (16-3-5, 7-1-3 Big Ten) struggled to create an attack. NC State came ready to play from the start and put pressure on the Gophers.

Wolfpack freshman midfielder Tziarra King caused trouble for the Gophers on the wing. She constantly tested the Minnesota defense, which needed a second or third defender to slow her down at times.

King’s ability to get behind the defense created scoring opportunities for NC State.

Minnesota senior goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs made five saves in the first half to keep her team in the match.

She saw more action in the first half than she had seen during entire games throughout the season.

Senior captain Simone Kolander was injured early in the second half, but Minnesota continued to apply pressure and attack without its star forward.

“We have a lot of really good players who are capable at any time of [stepping up],” Golan said. “As a coaching staff, we’re sitting there just feeling like it’s coming, feeling like it’s coming, and then we ran out of time.”

NC State had more difficulty getting to the goal in the second half, as Minnesota’s defense shut down most of the Wolfpack’s attacks.

The match needed overtime after neither team could gain the advantage.

Minnesota continued its form from the second half. The Gophers moved the ball well and won it back quickly when they lost it.

Hobbs turned away the Wolfpack’s two shots on goal during overtime. Hobbs closed the match with 8 saves and finished her career at Minnesota with 33 shutouts — the most in program history.

Golan has high hopes for the next seasons thanks to what this senior class brought to the program.

“The senior class made so much headway and will be leaving a legacy for the younger players of what’s possible when you’re willing to commit and come out every single day and give all you have to get 5 percent better every day,” Golan said.