Soccer heads south to face improved Hawkeyes

The Gophers will play Iowa in their only Saturday night game of 2011.

Drew Claussen

The GophersâÄô soccer team only has one game on the docket this weekend as they travel to Iowa to face the Hawkeyes.

With the lighter weekend, head coach Mikki Denney WrightâÄôs team can heal any nagging injuries.

Having only one game, as opposed to the usual two, doesnâÄôt mean that Minnesota will scout Iowa any more than usual, Denney Wright said.

âÄúWe know the Big Ten teams; weâÄôve seen them on TV a bunch of times. You know what they do,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúI think it just gives you more opportunity to work on yourself.âÄù

MinnesotaâÄôs defense, which gave up a late game-winner to Penn StateâÄôs Maya Hayes on Sunday, will have to defend against a very balanced Hawkeye attack. Iowa has five players with four or more goals on the season.

âÄúIn that situation [against Penn State] we knew the girl was fast and we lost track of her for a moment,âÄù sophomore defender MacKenzie Misel said. âÄúSo it was really a good play on their part and kind of a lack of focus on our part.âÄù

Freshman Cloe Lacasse leads the Hawkeyes with 10 goals and five assists on the year.

The Gophers are working on making their offense consistent after scoring multiple goals against Michigan and Wisconsin in previous weekends, only to be shut out against Michigan State and Penn State.

âÄúRight now weâÄôre just working on keeping the ball in our possession,âÄù forward Steph Brandt said. âÄúWe think once we can get that piece of our game in check then weâÄôll be able to make it to [the] goal and get our shots on frame.âÄù

Brandt added that she thinks the possession problem stems from poor first touches. Denney Wright echoed BrandtâÄôs concerns.

âÄúI think itâÄôs just staying consistent,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúWeâÄôre focusing on possession [and] keeping the ball because we didnâÄôt keep it enough in the second half [against Penn State] to generate opportunities.âÄù

Iowa is off to a 10-1-2 start (2-1-2 Big Ten), and is on pace for a breakthrough season. The Hawkeyes have finished last in the conference six times since 2003.

âÄúTheyâÄôre a good team [this season]. ItâÄôs kind of like what we were last year âÄî we had lots of players who could score goals,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúTheyâÄôve been though a lot, theyâÄôve lost a lot in the past so I think theyâÄôre hungry and theyâÄôve grown from it.âÄù

She added, âÄúI think this is their best team by far over the last few years.âÄù