Gophers open Big Ten season with best record

by Paul Cordes

In the midst of its best start in 11 years, Minnesota soccer opens Big Ten play this weekend.

The Gophers (6-1-1) will travel to Indiana to play the Hoosiers today and then to West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday to take on No. 25 Purdue.

Minnesota leads the all-time series with Indiana 9-5-2. But the Hoosiers (3-2-3) return 19 letter winners and seven starters from last year’s team, which went 7-10-2.

After dropping their first two games of the season, Indiana has since gone unbeaten, with three consecutive wins followed by a pair of ties last weekend. Coach Mikki Denney Wright expects a strong attack from the Hoosiers.

“Indiana’s a physical team, they’re very hard and they’re a great attacking team,” she said.

Indiana has scored 11 goals this season, coming from seven different players. Junior goalkeeper Stacey Van Boxmeer has started all eight games and is allowing an average of just 0.79 goals per game.

Although the Hoosiers are likely to play a competitive game against Minnesota, Purdue is one of the toughest teams the Gophers have on their schedule.

The Boilermakers (7-1-1) have one of the best records in the Big Ten, second only to Minnesota, and they are coming off a big 2-0 upset of No. 12 Utah. Home field advantage could also prove to be in their favor this weekend.

“We just have to take each game at a time this weekend,” sophomore midfielder Kelsey Hood said. “But we know that Purdue always has a very good team and we’re expecting it from them.”

Purdue has out-shot its opponents 16-6 so far this season and is led offensively by junior midfielder Parrissa Eyorokon. Eyorokon has scored five goals this season and has 12 total points.

With a difficult weekend ahead for the Gophers, Hood is excited to get out on the field to prove that this year’s team is for real.

“We’re not afraid of either of these teams,” Hood said. “We’re just really eager to start conference play and we’re going to come out prepared.”

Sophomore midfielder Clare Grimwood is also ready to get the weekend and Big Ten play started. She said that she thinks that after last weekend’s performance, the team is confident in their play.

“I think that this is going to be a great test for us,” she said. “We’re going to be playing very good teams, but I think that we’re ready for them.”

This is Minnesota’s second road trip this season. The first road trip was to the Brown Classic, where the Gophers went 1-0-1 with a 1-0 win over Army and a 2-2 tie against Brown. Grimwood doesn’t believe being on the road will be an issue and thinks it may even work to their advantage.

“There are less distractions on the road than at home,” she said. “When we’re on the road it’s eat, sleep and soccer. So it’s a great time to get focused on the game and see the task at hand.”

Regardless of whether the team is home or away, Denney Wright has stressed all season that the team needed to work on having an aggressive and consistent attack, balanced with good defensive pressure. With four weeks of nonconference games, she believes that her team has made a lot of strides.

“Our team looks totally organized and they know what they have to do defensively,” she said. “I think they look good as a group and I think we’ve definitely advanced.”