Gophers take Big Ten act on the road

Minnesota plays its first Big Ten road games at Wisconsin and Northwestern.

by Emily Wickstrom

Now that Minnesota’s soccer team has grown accustomed to playing on the road, members feel it’s time to start winning.

After this weekend, nine of the Gophers’ 12 games will have been on the road, with games today at Wisconsin in Madison, and Sunday at Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.

“I feel like every game we play is on the road because we’re never here,” freshman midfielder Kaitlin Wagner said. “That’s what we’re used to.”

So far, Minnesota (4-4-2, 1-1-0 Big Ten) has posted a respectable 3-3-1 record in road games, but Minnesota coach Mikki Denney Wright is the first to point out that conference games have been a different story.

The Gophers have struggled in Big Ten road games, going 2-13 over the past three seasons.

But Denney Wright would like to reverse that trend.

“We’re focusing on trying to get our kids comfortable winning on the road,” Denney Wright said. “But they perform just as well on the road as at home.”

This weekend’s games will be challenging for Minnesota, facing two of the top offensive teams in the Big Ten.

Northwestern and Wisconsin rank second and third in the conference, respectively, in goals, with the Wildcats boasting one of the top forwards in the conference.

Northwestern sophomore Kelsey Hans had the second-most goals in the Big Ten last year.

The Gophers may feel more comfortable against Wisconsin, after upsetting the Badgers last year 2-1 in Madison for one of Minnesota’s two Big Ten wins. Northwestern has beaten the Gophers in three of the past four match-ups.

“It’s always going to be tough in the Big Ten,” Denney Wright said, “because essentially all teams are ranked above us.”

Given the diparity in the Big Ten, however, Denney Wright and Gophers players said that anything can happen, including two Minnesota wins.

“In Big Ten’s there’s no gimme win or ‘You’re going to lose for sure,’ ” senior forward Becky Dellaria said. “If we put it together I think we could easily take two wins. But we’re going to have to work hard for it.”