Goalkeeper switch suits U soccer coach for now

by Mark Heller

Sue Montagne had seen enough.
After a 4-0 shellacking by Penn State last weekend, the Minnesota soccer coach decided to flip-flop her goalkeepers, replacing senior Dana Larson with sophomore Julie Eibensteiner.
Larson was a first team All-Big Ten goalie in ’97 and holds the school record for career shutouts with 21. She was also the Gophers career leader in goals against average at 1.18 heading into the season.
But Montagne wanted to shake things up to try and jump-start a sluggish team, and Eibensteiner had paid her dues.
“I just felt like Eibensteiner has been more consistent and deserved an opportunity to start a game,” Montagne said. “She’s been real vocal on the field, steady and strong.”
Eibensteiner only referred to the move as a “coach’s decision,” but the defense got two more shutouts this past weekend and Montagne is going to the well until it runs dry.
“The defense was great and the team played great,” Eibensteiner said, “so it was easy.”
“As soon as she did well in the first game, she was going to be in the second game,” Montagne said. “At this point in time I can’t really say that we have a reason not to (stay with Julie). But you always have to see how training goes.”
Up next
Minnesota is in for another big test this Friday when No. 16 Michigan pays a visit.
The Wolverines (10-3-1 overall, 7-0-1 in the Big Ten) and Penn State are the only two Big Ten teams without a loss in the conference this season. Friday’s game gives the Gophers one more chance to prove that they can beat a ranked team — something they’ll probably have to do if they want to win the conference tournament.
The Wolverines barely got by Northwestern 3-2 on Sunday.
Michigan’s Kacy Beitel got her 63rd career point last weekend, the fourth highest in school history. Emily Schmitt, an All-America candidate, scored the winning goal with 25 minutes left in the game for Michigan.
Montagne seems to feel better about the team’s chances in light of the Gophers’ recent sweep against Indiana and Purdue.
“I think this weekend was really important for our confidence to feel like `hey we’re a really strong team, let’s believe in ourselves and have some faith,'” Montagne said.
“I think part of what’s been hard for us is that we as coaches and as players have put so much pressure on ourselves to be Big Ten champs and go to the NCAA tournament. We’ve all decided to concentrate on each game and stop looking at the big picture because it’ll just screw us up.”
What’s the buzz
Among the 984 to attend Sunday’s game against Purdue was Minnesota Thunder head coach Buzz Lagos.
Lagos was the guest for the day’s trivia question at halftime. The question: What team is playing for the A-league national championship game this Saturday night?
A) The Twins
B) The Vikings
C) The Thunder
At this point neither the Twins nor the Vikings look on their way to playing in any championship game anytime soon, let alone Saturday night. The question was one of few this year that did not require help from the crowd.

Mark Heller covers soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]