Gophers put streak on line vs. San Diego State

Minnesota has won three games in a row.

by Betsy Helfand

First it was Florida State. Then it was South Carolina. Now, the Gophers soccer team will face its third ranked opponent in seven games this season.

The Gophers (4-2-0) will put their three-game winning streak on the line against No. 20 San Diego State (5-0-0) on Friday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

So far, Minnesota is 1-1 against ranked opponents. It dropped its first game of the season against then-No. 4 Florida State but rebounded two days later to beat then-No. 24 South Carolina.

A win in this game won’t come as easily as Minnesota’s last three, but win or lose, the team will gain valuable experience heading into the competitive Big Ten schedule.

“They’re going to be hard and they’re going to be physical, and that’s exactly what the Big Ten is — it’s all about the grind,” senior defender Tamara Strahota said, “so it’s definitely good playing a physical and more aggressive team going into that.”

The Gophers have played two California teams thus far and gone 1-1.

Head coach Stefanie Golan said California teams “can be pretty but will also get direct when they need to” and that they are “willing to adapt to whatever the situation calls for.”

The game against USC was particularly physical, and Golan is expecting Friday to be the same.

In preparation for the game, the team has been focusing on shoring up its defense.

“We’ve been able to get away with bad habits in the last couple games that we won’t be able to get away with against this team,” Golan said. “Individual defending has to be sharper [and] team defending has to be together.”

Minnesota has played relatively close, low-scoring games throughout the season, with the exception of the 7-0 blowout over Bowling Green.

Goalie Cat Parkhill has recorded two consecutive shutouts to improve her goals-against average to 1.31.

In the other net, San Diego State goalie Rachel Boaz has yet to allow a goal on the season.

“She hasn’t given up a goal, but we’ve scored a lot of goals,” Golan said. “For us, we’re confident in our ability to score. We’re confident in our ability to create opportunities. We’ll sort it out pretty quickly of what we need to do to put it in the back of the net.”

Minnesota received 15 votes this week in the latest NSCAA Coaches poll, and a win over San Diego State could push it into the rankings.

Strahota said a win Friday would be bigger because of the team’s potential to be ranked.

San Diego State is coming off of a win over then-No. 5 Pepperdine. Golan said she thinks that any team in the rankings will be feeling “pretty good about themselves” but that teams aren’t taking them lightly because of their results this season.

“I think they’re going to be excited to play, but I think they know they’re going to need to do more than show up,” Golan said.

Friday’s game is the first of the Gophers’ two games at the Minnesota Classic. They will also host DePaul at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

-Megan Ryan contributed to this story.