Time off provides soccer team chance to get healthy

Jabari Ritchie

The postponing and cancellation of last weekend’s games against Iowa State and Detroit-Mercy pushed the Minnesota soccer team’s home opener back two weeks.

The Gophers were unable to play their final non-conference games before Big Ten play starts Friday, but the team thinks it should benefit from the time off.

“We’re looking at it as a fresh start,” defender Katherine Arndt said. “We had a rough last three games and we’re focusing on starting over, going in really strong and blowing them away.”

Minnesota will be looking to rebound from three straight shut-out loses when it travels to Ohio State and Penn State this weekend.

The Gophers practiced Wednesday through Friday and each day this week, but they took the weekend off.

“I think they needed it,” coach Barbara Wickstrand said after Tuesday’s practice. “Overall it has helped. It can’t hurt.”

The break also helped several injured players. Center midfielder and co-captain Alison Rackley, who sprained her ankle in the season opener, as well as forward Jordan Bieler and Arndt, might all be ready to play soon.

“I think Rackley will be ready this weekend for at least some time,” Wickstrand said. “Jordan’s still kind of shaky so we don’t know if she will be playing.”

Arndt, who played in 17 games last year, has been out since the summer with a mid-foot sprain. She practiced for the third time Tuesday.

Bieler, who suffered a concussion in practice two weeks ago, has practiced and expected to play limited minutes last weekend.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to add something when I get back on the field,” said Bieler, a starter. “I’m hoping to score some goals and that’s what we’ve been lacking in the last couple of games.”

Minnesota needs to score against Ohio State Friday to avoid setting a record for consecutive minutes without a goal. The Gophers had a 352-minute drought last year.

“We need to put some goals in the net,” said defender Sarah FitzGerald. “Last year we had problems with that, but this year in our first preseason game we put five goals in the net. We have the potential to do it.”

In practice this week, Minnesota is focusing on transitions from defense to offense and on limiting the technical problems that have plagued the team this season.

“We’ve got to stay mentally focused for 90 minutes,” said Wickstrand. “We’ve got to believe in ourselves and in our teammates to go hard for every single loose ball. That’s the key to our game.

“I think if we stick to our game plan we’ve got a great chance at two wins this weekend. If we don’t, we could be in trouble.”