Minnesota continues resurgent season

Emily Wickstrom

Heading into the weekend, opponents may still have been overlooking Minnesota’s soccer team, a squad coming off four straight years of fewer than three conference wins.

It will be hard to ignore the Gophers after they swept a pair of Big Ten opponents on the road for the first time since 2000.

Minnesota (6-4-2, 3-1-0 Big Ten) defeated Wisconsin 1-0 in double overtime Friday in Madison, Wis., and beat Northwestern 1-0 on Sunday in Evanston, Ill.

On Friday, freshman Kaitlin Wagner scored with 1:58 remaining in the second overtime to give Minnesota the sudden-death victory.

On the game-winning play senior Becky Dellaria crossed the ball to Lindsey Schwartz in front of the Badgers’ goal. Schwartz flicked the ball to Wagner, who one-touched it into the goal.

“Just one chance and it’s the game,” Wagner said. “We came out and played our hearts out. We can beat any team if we do that.”

Although Minnesota came away with the win, the game just as easily could have been a Badger’s rout.

Wisconsin dominated the game, out-shooting the Gophers 21-8 with multiple near-misses on goal, many of which came from free kicks. In an extremely physical game, Minnesota was called for 35 fouls.

The Badgers thought they took the lead in the opening minutes of the second half when it appeared that Marisa Brown had given her team a 1-0 lead. But Wisconsin was called offsides inside the 6-yard box, so the goal was called back.

Minnesota caught another break with seconds to go in the game, when Amy Vermeulen’s shot in front of the Gophers’ goal went just wide.

For Minnesota, its only shot on goal was Wagner’s game-winner.

“They crushed us,” Gophers coach Mikki Denney Wright said. “We kept changing our system to try to find a way that we could play with them.”

Despite being shelled with Badgers shots, Minnesota’s defense never wavered, making the necessary plays to prevent Wisconsin from scoring.

Goalkeeper Molly Schneider led the way, recording a pair of diving saves to go with her five total.

“We have a good goalkeeper and that’s what she’s meant to do,” Denney Wright said. “We put a lot of pride in our defense and they always want to get a shutout. I was really proud of the way they performed.”

Schneider starred again on Sunday for the Gophers, earning nine saves to pick up her fifth shutout of the year, leading Denney Wright to call her “the player of the weekend.”

Dellaria scored on a breakaway when Schwartz passed her a through ball in the 75th minute to give Minnesota the win.

Northwestern goalie Whitney Jones kept the Gophers from taking the lead sooner when she stopped Dellaria’s breakaway early in the second half.

The Wildcats definitely had their chances, but struggled to finish. Forward Kelsey Hans had nine shots, four of which were on goal.

“We’re an up-and-coming team,” Schneider said. “Two wins on the road – not a lot of people know about us, but we’re putting ourselves on the map.”