Soccer team can still make Big Ten field

Adam Fink

Minnesota soccer coaches and players gathered Saturday night to reassess their goals following an 8-1 rout by Penn State one night earlier.

The talk centered around winning the final two Big Ten games, which would likely be enough to squeeze into the top eight spots in the conference and a berth in the conference tournament.

However, after losing to Ohio State 1-0 in overtime Sunday, Minnesota (5-8-2, 2-6-1 Big Ten) needs help to reach its ultimate preseason goal.

“We want to finish the season strong,” coach Barbara Wickstrand said. “We have to rely on some help to make the tournament, but we still can make it.”

The scenario that must occur for the 10th-place Gophers to make the tournament is fairly simple: Defeat Wisconsin on Friday night at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium and hope Northwestern loses to Illinois.

Wisconsin is in ninth place in the standings, with a conference record of 3-6.

Northwestern – in the final position to make the tournament – plays in Champaign, Ill., against the second-place Illini.

If Minnesota defeats the Badgers on Friday and the Wildcats lose, both teams would be tied for eighth place with a record of 3-6-1 and 10 points.

However, Minnesota would earn a berth in the tournament because the Gophers defeated Northwestern 2-1 in head-to-head competition Oct. 3. It was their only meeting of the year.

In addition, Wisconsin would make the tournament if they win or tie and Northwestern loses.

The winner of the eighth seed will play Penn State, who won its eighth consecutive Big Ten title last weekend.

“We know we are a better team then how we have played,” co-captain Amanda McMahon said Sunday. “We are still positive.”

Entering the year, the Gophers hoped to win six Big Ten games. That goal evaporated two weeks ago, but Minnesota’s main goal – returning to the Big Ten tournament after a three-year hiatus – is still in reach.

Barely.

Three teams, one berth and a competitive final weekend.

By Friday night there will be two teams reminiscing on what could have been and one team celebrating a trip to Madison, Wis., for the tournament, which starts Nov. 6.

The seven other spots for the tournament have already been locked up.

First-place Penn State is the only team guaranteed to finish the season in the spot it currently holds.

Seeds four through seven are still up for grabs, with Ohio State (15 points) only three points ahead of seventh-place Michigan State.

The only team eliminated is Iowa, which will finish in last place. The Hawkeyes are also the only winless team in Big Ten play.

Berg making an impact

The coaching staff didn’t expect Lisa Berg to make an impact this season.

After playing in only three games last season, Berg wasn’t high on the depth chart.

However, the redshirt freshman has been one of the biggest improvements on the team and has played in 12 games.

“She rose to the occasion,” Wickstrand said. “We will tell her something one day and then she goes out and does it.”

The Duluth, Minn., native hasn’t tallied any points but has played consistently and given a solid effort.

Berg is listed as a defender but has established herself as a utility player.