Varying answers regarding Minnesota soccer woes

Monica Wright

Two weeks ago, the Gopher soccer players were all smiles. They had just beaten Iowa 5-1 after losing two consecutive games to seemingly sub-par non-conference teams.
Then, it appeared the team was out of their early-season funk and on the way to a strong Big Ten season.
“I don’t know what happened, we just all clicked and every one of us had a great game,” junior Samantha Meyer said after the Iowa match. “Everyone was on their game and going to the ball. We won every ball.”
Today, the Hawkeye game seems an aberration after Minnesota went on to be shutout by conference foes Illinois, 2-0, and Michigan, 4-0.
For a team with five consecutive NCAA tournament apperances and two Big Ten titles, in 1995 and 1997, the pressure to perform is high.
And the results are not.
There are several obvious excuses to choose from: a new head coach, the loss of six letterwinners, and recent injuries for several players.
But senior Erin Holland says the team doesn’t subscribe to these theories.
“Those are all just bad excuses,” Holland said. “A coach can’t make you win or lose, and they can’t change who you are as a player.
“It’s the easy way out to say it’s our effort or heart or talent but I think that’s too general, there is something more than that missing and we need to light it up.”
One of the obvious handicaps this year has been getting the ball in the net. After eight games, the Gophers have netted a mere nine goals.
With their shots on goal often higher than their opponents, Minnesota’s lack of scoring punch is doubly perplexing.
According to Wickstrand, the key to the goal deficit lies in not getting to the ball.
“We need to create more opportunities by beating the other team to the ball, giving us more chances in front of the net,” Wickstrand said.
“We’re great when we’re on the ball and we have a talented team but we need to be aggressive.”
Another problem Wickstrand identified is a lack of upperclassmen setting the tone for the younger players on the field.
As Minnesota relies more and more on their younger players to make big plays, Holland agrees the juniors and seniors need to set the pace for them.
“The plans are there but as players we aren’t executing it,” Holland said. “I think a lot of small factors brought us into big ones and the big ones left us all confused on the field.”
Confusion aside, Wickstrand knew as a first year head coach she would face some hardships.
Now she wants wins.
And this weekend’s series against Ohio State and defending Big Ten champions Penn State would be the perfect place to start.
“My frustration is that I can’t play for them,” Wickstrand said. “Game day is their time to have fun and play. We have the caliber of players to get a championship and I want that for them.”