Gophers drop two in Minnesota Gold Classic

by Drew Claussen

Head coach Mikki Denney Wright was not pleased after getting swept on her home turf this weekend. After chippy play Sunday, a yellow card was the difference maker in the GophersâÄô 1-0 loss to University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Minnesota (2-4) hosted the Minnesota Gold Classic at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium this weekend, which brought in the University of Georgia on Friday and UW-Milwaukee on Sunday.
Despite owning huge shot advantages in both games, Minnesota struggled to finish scoring chances all weekend. They lost 2-1 in overtime Friday and were shutout 1-0 on Sunday.
Friday night the Gophers controlled the pace of the game and racked up opportunities early and often.
The first of MinnesotaâÄôs opportunities came when a cross from Junior Steph Brandt was headed on goal by Nicole Baier. The attempt was stopped by a spectacular diving save by GeorgiaâÄôs keeper Ashley Baker.
The Gophers amassed nine shots in the first half âÄî four of them were on goal to GeorgiaâÄôs two shots both on target.
âÄúThere [were] balls that usually we score,âÄù Denney Wright said Friday. âÄúThey were very tenacious on box play and knocked quite a few off the line.âÄù
After the halftime break, both teams came out firing on all cylinders. MinnesotaâÄôs Shari Eckstrom put a shot just inches wide right in the 47th minute and GeorgiaâÄôs Alexa Newfield hit the crossbar from about 25 yards out in the 48th minute.
The Gophers had another chance two minutes later when freshman Taylor Uhl slipped behind the Bulldogs defense for a breakaway. The seemingly golden chance went sour after Uhl pushed the ball wide right when Baker came out to challenge her.
âÄúPersonally I need to work on my placement,âÄù Uhl said. âÄúI had several opportunities that I should finish.âÄù
Uhl is one of seven freshmen on this yearâÄôs team âÄî all of whom played extended minutes Friday.
âÄúWeâÄôre a young group so we knew that itâÄôs going to be a growth experience and we understand that,âÄù Denney Wright said.
The scoreless tie was broken late in the game, when, in the 77th minute, GeorgiaâÄôs Meghan Gibbons took a through ball and slipped past the GophersâÄô defense for a breakaway. She fired a shot that was stopped by MinnesotaâÄôs keeper Cat Parkhill, Gibbons quickly regained possession of the rebound and easily put it in the back of the net putting the Bulldogs up 1-0.
The Gophers came storming back to tie the game after a corner kick by Baier was sent long, Olivia Bagnall corralled the stray ball and put it back into the box where it was headed into the back of the net by Eckstrom.
âÄúI just headed it back where it came from,âÄù Eckstrom said. âÄúIâÄôve been working on that this week so I was excited about the goal.âÄù
The score remained tied through regulation. One minute and 17 seconds into the overtime session, Newfield scored the game winner for the Bulldogs.
The Gophers had a distinct advantage in most offensive categories Friday, including a 24-10 shot advantage and a 12-3 corner kick advantage.
âÄúItâÄôs unfortunate to give up two goals to be honest because thatâÄôs a game we can win and we know that,âÄù Denny Wright said.
The Gophers were unable to salvage a split on the weekend, as they dropped SundayâÄôs match 1-0 to the No. 20 Panthers. Shots favored Minnesota 10-3 in the first half, with eight shots on target.
Baier had the Gophers first chance of the game in the 10th minute when she took a through ball from Eckstrom and put a shot on goal which was saved on a diving attempt by MilwaukeeâÄôs goalkeeper Jamie Forbes.
The Panthers answered 10 minutes later with their best attempt of the half when Kelly Lewers hit the crossbar from just inside the box.
The Gophers had another chance in the 31st minute when EckstromâÄôs shot to the right on the net was diverted by another diving save by Forbes.
Forbes racked up eight saves in the first half and Parkhill saved the only shot she faced.
Action slowed to a crawl in the second half until the 76th minute, when the PanthersâÄô Keara Thompson crossed a free kick from just outside the left side of the box. Sarah Hagen headed it to the top left corner for her seventh goal of the young season.
The Panthers then switched to a defensive-orientated mindset for the duration of the game, holding the Gophers off the board and taking the match 1-0.
Minnesota outshot the Panthers 23-10. Forbes had 12 saves for her second shutout of the weekend.
Denney Wright refused comment following SundayâÄôs loss.