Uhl helps Gophers split weekend in Indiana

Taylor Uhl had a hat trick Sunday as the Gophers beat Purdue 5-1.

by Betsy Helfand

Sophomore forward Taylor Uhl entered the weekend leading the NCAA in points scored.

On Sunday, Purdue saw why.

Uhl carried the Gophers’ offense with a hat trick in their 5-1 victory in West Lafayette, Ind.

The hat trick was her third of the season and the fifth of her career.

“For her to finish with a hat trick in a Big Ten game, that’s a pretty huge deal,” head coach Stefanie Golan said. “She still continues to push, she still continues to fight, she still continues to be pretty dangerous for us.”

Golan said Sunday was probably one of the team’s strongest attacking performances.

The five goals were Minnesota’s highest in a Big Ten game, and second highest of the season.

In comparison, the Gophers had scored four goals in their past four Big Ten games combined.

Minnesota lost 2-0 on Friday to Indiana despite outshooting the Hoosiers 16-6.

“We certainly had a lot of opportunities of our own that we didn’t put away,” Golan said.

She said the team didn’t play poorly; it was just unable to finish.

With the win, the Gophers are now 5-0 in Sunday games following a loss.

“We take a lot of pride in being a strong Sunday team,” Golan said.

She has talked time and time again about the team’s resilience in Sunday games, and she credited that to the players.

“We always say how important it is, and everyone recognizes the fact that most teams come out slow on Sundays,” Uhl said. “Just talking about it and making sure everyone knows that they need to come out strong helps us to do so.”

The Gophers came out hard Sunday in what Golan said was the most physical game they’ve played this season.

The game featured two penalty kicks and two yellow cards. Both teams had one of each.

On Sunday, Minnesota got on the board first when Uhl capitalized a penalty kick in the 15th minute.

“It was huge, just to set the tone of the game,” Uhl said. “It was getting pretty chippy, so us putting one away first really helped our chances the rest of the game.”

Minnesota also found success with an offensive set piece in the first half — a rare occurrence for the team this season.

Katie Thyken headed in Taylor Wodnick’s corner kick in the 29th minute.

“I think that that was a pretty big moment for us to see, ‘Wow, we can finish some of those opportunities,’” Golan said.

Thyken said that if she hadn’t gotten the ball, Lauren Bauer or Uhl would have.

“It was the perfect fall in from Wodnick,” Thyken said. “We were all ready to go on that.”

Thyken said the Gophers had been working on set pieces a lot and that it was nice to get a goal off one, especially because they have a lot of corner kick opportunities compared to their opponents.

Minnesota has 96 corners this season, and its opponents have 49.

Thyken, a midfielder, scored the Gophers’ fourth goal a little more than 10 minutes after Purdue scored off a rebound from a penalty kick in the second half.

Thyken is Minnesota’s second-leading scorer with 18 points. Golan called her “the engine that makes our team go.”

She’s second only to Uhl, her former teammate at Eden Prairie High School, who has 47 points.

Uhl’s second and third goals Sunday came on through balls from the midfield.

Uhl said Purdue switched to having only three defenders, which made it “really fun up top.”

“It was awesome that they only had three in the back and that we could just run at them all day,” Uhl said.

Minnesota (10-7-1, 5-4-1 Big Ten) has guaranteed itself a spot in the Big Ten tournament.

It’ll conclude Big Ten play next weekend at Nebraska. With a win, Minnesota would earn the fourth seed in the tournament.

“I think that’s kind of a breath of fresh air,” Golan said. “We don’t have to rely on teams winning out. It’s all about what we do.”