Gophers make NCAA Tourney

Gophers make NCAA Tourney

Senior Haley Helverson dribbles the ball down the field at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Friday, Sept. 11.

Melissa Scharf / Daily File Photo

Senior Haley Helverson dribbles the ball down the field at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Friday, Sept. 11.

Kaitlin Merkel

The Gophers soccer team has earned a spot in the NCAA tournament.
 
The bracket was announced on Monday afternoon, and Minnesota (11-6-3, 6-4-1 Big Ten) will host South Dakota State University (12-5-3) at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium Friday night.
 
“We were obviously thrilled,” Minnesota head coach Stefanie Golan said. “I felt pretty good that we were going to be in the tournament, but I honestly did not expect to host the first round game, so we couldn’t be more thrilled to have that opportunity.”
 
The Gophers last appeared in the tournament in 2013. This is the second time the team has made the tournament under Golan.
 
Senior defender Haley Helverson said the chance to play another game at home as a senior adds to the excitement.
 
“Playing one more time at [Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium], that’s the most exciting news you could ever think of,” Helverson said. “Being a senior, you never want your season to end, so this is super exciting.”
 
The Gophers will enter the tournament after a regular season in which the team started 11-2-2 in their first 15 games, but went 0-4-1 in their last five games to finish sixth in
the Big Ten conference.
 
Golan said Minnesota will no longer focus on its late-season slide during training this week.
 
“Our focus transitions to winning a game this weekend,” Golan said. “We’ve blended some veteran players with a lot of players who have gained experience over the course of the season. … As a staff, we believe in our team and what we can do, and we’re excited to make a run.”
 
Golan also said the team will need to improve its defense, which allowed 11 goals in its last five games after allowing just seven in the first 15 games.
 
“[Our focus is] tightening things up defensively,” Golan said. “We’ve obviously given up quite a few goals at the tail end of the season, and we know that we’re capable of 
much better than that.”