Soccer pumped for weekend tilt with struggling foes

by Jabari Ritchie

After playing its most successful soccer of the season last week, Minnesota hopes to improve in games against Indiana and Purdue this weekend.

“We’re pretty confident,” midfielder Tierney Palmer-Klein said. “I think they’re both teams that we can play well against and win against. People are pretty revved-up and ready to go.”

The Gophers (3-5), who split the first two games of their five-game homestand last weekend, haven’t lost to the Hoosiers or Boilermakers since 1994. But Minnesota still expects a challenge.

“Those games are going to be tough,” coach Barbara Wickstrand said. “Everyone from top to bottom in the Big Ten can beat anyone on any given day so we have our work cut out for us. We have to be ready to play from the first blow of the whistle.”

Both teams have had success this season. Purdue (4-4-1) is on a three-game winless streak, but last Friday the Boilermakers tied eighth-ranked Penn State. Indiana (5-2-1) took third-ranked Notre Dame to overtime and has received top 25 votes this season.

In Friday’s game against the Hoosiers, the Gophers will face a defense that has shut out four teams and held two to just one goal. Goalkeeper Shaunna Daugherty has a .93 goals against average.

After failing to convert on 19 shots in last Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Iowa, Minnesota will need to be more efficient against a good defense this week.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen again,” Wickstrand said about the Gophers’ missed chances. “I think if (Minnesota forward) Rachael Roth has those kind of opportunities again she’s going to bury them.”

Roth benefitted most from the new formation the Gophers implemented last weekend with two goals and 11 shots.

“We’re going to bring it to them,” Roth said. “I don’t think we’re going to let this happen again. No losing on the home field.”

Offensively, the Boilermakers have been more successful than Indiana. While the Hoosiers have scored nine times this season, Purdue has averaged nearly two goals per game.

The Boilermakers are led by freshman midfielder Lauren Sesselmann, who has four goals and four assists and sophomore forward Courtney Coppedge, who has four goals and one assist.

They have also played well defensively. Senior Goalkeeper Elizabeth Boldt, who had nine saves in the 1-1 tie with Penn State, was just named Big Ten defensive player of the week. Purdue has two shutouts.

“It’s going to be a battle,” Wickstrand said about both teams. “Like all the teams in the Big Ten, they’re physical and they’ve had some great wins already. I’m just happy that we’re at home and I’m happy we’re playing well here and getting more opportunities offensively.”


Jabari Ritchie covers soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]