Home tournament yields a pair of victories

by Paul Cordes

Playing at home for the first time since school started, the Minnesota soccer team won both its games in the Gopher Invitational to take home the tournament title.

The Gophers shut out No. 30 Dartmouth 1-0 Friday night and followed it with a 3-1 victory over Northern Colorado Sunday.

Dartmouth (3-3-0 overall) looked like the better team early on Friday, as they put nonstop offensive pressure on the Minnesota defense. Dartmouth out-shot the Gophers 8-1 in the first half and finished the game with 18 to Minnesota’s three.

Redshirt freshman forward Elena Fruci took the Gophers’ only shot of the first half and converted, beating two defenders to the ball for the game-winning goal in the 24th minute. It was all that Minnesota would need, as its defense had one of its best performances of the year.

“We knew that after we scored that first goal, we could leave it up to our defense to keep us ahead,” Fruci said. “We played really, really well on defense and we were able to just sit on the ball.”

The Gophers did just that, but it didn’t come easily. Several last minute chances arose for Dartmouth, including two open kicks from point-blank range and two dangerous corner kicks in the last two minutes of the game. Freshman goalkeeper Chelsey Turner came up with five saves on the night as she recorded her second straight shutout.

Coach Mikki Denney Wright said that she was impressed with the team’s character on Friday.

“Tonight we were waiting to see how much character we have, and how our team would respond to a team like Dartmouth that pressures for so many minutes,” she said after the game Friday. “This team is going to be successful because they have a tremendous amount of heart and character.”

Minnesota came out on Sunday a different team. The first half was filled with offensive opportunities for the Gophers as they took nine shots. Just one of those found their way to the goal as sophomore midfielder Kaitlin Wagner scored her third goal of the year in the 31st minute.

“It’s definitely frustrating having so many shots on goal with nothing to show for it,” Wagner said. “But in the game of soccer, they don’t all go in, and you just have to stay focused.”

It didn’t take long for Northern Colorado (3-3-1 overall) to strike back as sophomore forward Teresa Prais took the ball from one end of the field to the other, beating five Minnesota defenders to put the shot past redshirt sophomore Lindsey Dare to tie the game at one in the 33rd minute.

“We knew that it wasn’t our best half and we went into the locker room and talked about the changes we needed to make,” sophomore forward Lindsey Schwartz said. “We needed to work on our defensive pressure, and once we got that up, we were able to win more balls and have more opportunities.”

In the second half, both teams came out battling for possession as the clock reached the 70th minute before sophomore midfielder Clare Grimwood scored her second goal of the season, followed closely by Schwartz’s fourth goal of the year in the 86th minute to put the game away.

Denney Wright was happy with the team’s performance for the weekend, even though she said she wants to see her team’s play on Sundays improve.

“It’s good for our confidence to be going into the Big Ten with a 6-1 record,” she said, “But at this point, it’s all a new season. Going into the Big Ten, it’s 0-0 and you have to prove yourself every game.”