Defense throws pair of shutouts in wins

Mark Heller

The infusion of offensive talent and the three-forward, straight-at-you style of play has given opposing soccer coaches fits in the 90s.
Minnesota — a user of the three-forward attack — set a school record for goals last season and Nicole Lee and Laurie Seidl finished first and third respectively in points in the Big Ten.
Lee and Seidl both have eight points to lead the Gophers so far, but Minnesota has just 12 goals in eight games so far this season.
And yet they have a 5-3 record overall, 3-1 in the Big Ten after a weekend sweep.
Can we say defense?
“The defense played great today,” Lee said following the Northwestern game. “Even at the end they were throwing everyone and put our defense under a lot of pressure. They kept their composure.”
The offense has played a part in a better defense. So far most of the time has been spent on the offensive attack, although the statistics haven’t shown that because the Gophers offense has been out of sync.
This weekend followed that same path. The Gophers would spend the first 80 minutes of Sunday’s game with Northwestern in the Wildcats zone. Then the defense would spend the last 10 minutes flying around like a circus when the opposition was overloading and desperate to get a goal.
So far, however, the relatively young defense has held their own.
“We started off low on experience but we’re all working well together,” goalie Dana Larson said. “For the past couple weeks now it’s come together well and we’re communicating a lot better.”
Because of the three-forward attack and the presence of Seidl and Lee, most teams so far have had to go in a defensive shell against Minnesota.
The offensive pressure has been able to keep a young defense from facing a serious attack for most of its games. Against the Wildcats, the Gophers yielded one shot on goal and five total shots for the game.
“It was one hell of a shot,” Northwestern coach Marcia McDermott said, referring to a shot late in the second half that hit the crossbar. “But we have so much respect for their three front people.”
Gophers coach Sue Montagne also gave kudos to Larson — despite the fact that Larson was twiddling her thumbs for most of the two games.
“Dana was just big for us,” she said. “We needed her to come up with a big win. She gained a lot of confidence today. Her punts were incredible, they put us deep into their defensive end. Things she should do, but hasn’t done; she put it all together.”
Larson and her defense came up big when they had to again this weekend. The coaches and players both feel that an offensive explosion is going to happen, but until then, they’re winning with that other facet of the game.
“I think it just happens,”Montagne said. “Whether it’s 10-0 or 1-0, we just put the players in to play defense, and that’s what they did.”

Mark Heller covers soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]