Gophers control own fate as regular season concludes at Neb.

Minnesota can secure the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament.

Minnesota midfielder Allie Phillips kicks the ball away form Northwestern on Oct. 14 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Image by Blake Leigh, Daily File Photo

Minnesota midfielder Allie Phillips kicks the ball away form Northwestern on Oct. 14 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

by Betsy Helfand

The Gophers hold their Big Ten tournament seeding fate in its hands.

And that’s how they prefer it.

A win at Nebraska on Friday would secure the Gophers the fourth seed in the Big Ten tournament next week.

Gophers head coach Stefanie Golan said it’s the best position to be in because they don’t have to rely on other teams.

She said it takes a lot of pressure off the players knowing that if they win, the fourth seed is locked in and they don’t have to wait for other teams’ results.

Minnesota could also be the fifth or sixth seed, but it can’t catch the current No. 3 team in the Big Ten, Ohio State, which has 22 points.

The Gophers can’t be caught by the Nos. 7 and 8 teams, Indiana and Nebraska, both of which have 12 points.

Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois each have 16 points in the conference, but the Gophers hold the tiebreaker over both teams. They beat Wisconsin 3-2 and Illinois 3-0 earlier this season.

“I think there’s a lot of added pressure just knowing you have to win,” senior Olivia Bagnall said.

If the Gophers lose, their Big Ten tournament picture gets a bit more complicated. They would need either Wisconsin or Illinois to lose to secure the No. 5 seed, but if both won, they would fall to the No. 6 seed.

Illinois faces tough competition with Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Badgers play Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.

The Gophers get to focus on Nebraska.

“I think Nebraska presents a different kind of challenge,” Golan said. “They play a very chaotic style of soccer that’s pretty unique. We like how we match up against it.”

She called their system “untraditional.”

“[They have] two in the back, four in the midfield and four up top when they have the ball and when they’re pressing,” Golan said. “Their goalkeeper [is] playing way out of the box.”

Golan said she likes when her attackers have “that kind of room to be able to play with.”

Senior defender Marissa Price said the team trained to play Nebraska on Wednesday by emulating the Cornhuskers’ system.

Last year, the Gophers beat the Cornhuskers 6-3, and Price said it’s “great coming in having played them and knowing how they play.”

Regardless of what happens this weekend, the Gophers will finish higher than Big Ten coaches predicted before the season started. They were predicted to finish eighth.

“Obviously we’d like to be first, second or third,” Golan said. “We’re glad we’re not where it was predicted, but we’d like to be higher than we are.”