Gophers headed to the Sweet Sixteen

Womens Soccer vs SDSU

Tara Sloane

Women’s Soccer vs SDSU

Senior forward Lindsey Schwartz said prior to this weekendâÄôs games that the key to first- and second-round NCAA tournament victories for the Minnesota soccer team would be to score early and score often. The team appeared to have no problem living up to that mantra this weekend. The Gophers began their NCAA tournament run with a win Friday night against Marquette. Minnesota opened up with two goals in the first 15 minutes of play Friday. The Gophers were able to hang onto a 2-0 lead until late in the second half and ended the game with a 2-1 victory. The gameâÄôs first goal popped loose amid a crowd in front of the Golden EaglesâÄô net. Senior midfielder Kelsey Hood was credited with the goal, her first of the season. âÄúI had this dance planned out if I was going to score,âÄù Hood said. âÄúBut I didnâÄôt do it.âÄù Julie Rezac netted the GophersâÄô second goal of the game soon afterward. Marquette continued to keep the pressure on Minnesota, scoring in the 75th minute to keep the team in the game. The Golden Eagles made a big push in the last minute of play, ending the game with a save by senior Gophers goalkeeper Lindsey Dare to hang onto the lead. Gophers head coach Mikki Denney Wright cited her teamâÄôs confidence and composure as reasons for its success. âÄúAt the end of the game, our ability to kill the game off like that, it was fantastic,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs really difficult to do, and it showed a lot of composure.âÄù The Gophers brought that same intensity to SundayâÄôs game, again scoring twice in the first 15 minutes of the game. Sophomore midfielder Molly Rouse netted MinnesotaâÄôs first goal of the game. Rouse caught the ball off a pass from Schwartz and lofted it into the upper corner of the JackrabbitsâÄô net for a clean fourth goal of the season. Schwartz came through again in the 13th minute of play to put the team up 2-0. Grabbing the lead early is always the teamâÄôs focus, she said. âÄúIt builds our confidence and gives us a little bit of cushion so we can just relax and play our game,âÄù she said. Minnesota continued to keep the pressure on South Dakota State, leading 16-8 in shots despite a second-half Jackrabbits offensive push, in the end securing a 2-0 victory. South Dakota StateâÄôs push toward the end of the game echoed the offensive pressure Minnesota felt Friday against Marquette. Hood and senior midfielder Clare Grimwood attributed that offensive pressure to the teamsâÄô seniors staving off an end to their collegiate career. âÄúThey played their heart,âÄù Grimwood said. âÄúI think anyone in that situation would do the same.âÄù This is the first second-round NCAA tournament win for the Gophers in the history of the program. âÄúI couldnâÄôt think of a better way to go out for our senior year,âÄù Schwartz said. âÄúIt feels unbelievable.âÄù Grimwood said this season sets a standard for the next batch of Gophers set to take the field. âÄúFrom this point on this program is always going to be competitive,âÄù she said. âÄúEspecially in the Big Ten, especially in the nation.âÄù The team will travel to Notre Dame next weekend to take on the No. 1 Fighting Irish, advancing to the Sweet 16.