Illini hand Gophers road loss

Minnesota recieved its first Big Ten loss Friday to a talented Illinois team.

by Nick Gerhardt

The road to the top of the Big Ten proved difficult for Minnesota this weekend as it dropped a tough match against Illinois.

The Gophers lost 1-0 on the road against a very tough Fighting Illini team.

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what: Soccer
when: 6 p.m., Friday
where: Bloomington, Ind.

2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Chichi Nweke scored the game’s lone goal in the sixth minute when she beat sophomore Chelsey Turner from six yards out.

The goal came on a counterattack opportunity for Illinois, but coach Mikki Denney Wright felt the defense played well despite surrendering an early goal.

“We played really well defensively,” Denney Wright said. “They were brilliant defending on set pieces.”

After not seeing many shots her way in recent games, Turner spent much of the night turning away Illinois’ chances. Turner made seven saves and kept the match close for the Gophers.

Turner described the game as chaotic at times because of the pressure and felt the team could have played better.

“We didn’t have anything click. We knew it was going to be tough,” Turner said.

The Illini fired 27 shots in the game while Minnesota (6-4-1 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) had only seven.

“Usually those are our numbers,” Turner said.

The game was a bit of a role reversal for the Gophers because the offense normally outshines the defense; before Friday, Minnesota tied for third in the conference for goals scored, but it was the defense that impressed Denney Wright.

The Illini (6-4 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) pressured the Minnesota defense all evening, especially on set pieces amassing 14 corners to just five for the Gophers.

“They had some good opportunities but our defense did very well,” junior Lindsey Schwartz said.

Schwartz led Minnesota with two shots in the game, but the Gophers struggled to mount an offensive threat.

“We didn’t have much of a rhythm on our attack,” Denney Wright said.

Schwartz said the team had trouble sustaining an attack against the Illini.

“It was hard for us to hold the ball up top. We played okay, but it was tough.”

Denney Wright was convinced the game played quicker than what the Gophers have been used to, and the team will need to work at a faster rate for the duration of the Big Ten schedule.

“The speed was quick so we’ll work on that in practice,” Denney Wright said.

The Gophers entered the game on a five-game unbeaten streak, but ended up getting shut out for just the second time all season.

The loss dropped Minnesota to 2-1 in the Big Ten, and the path will not get any easier, as the Gophers will face nationally ranked Purdue and regionally ranked Indiana next weekend.

Both teams have not lost in their past 11 matches, and Purdue has only one loss on the season.

“If we can play defense like we did Friday night we can play with anyone,” Denney Wright said.