Minnesota heads west to take on Boise State and Montana

Bob Wothe

After a 2-1 start, Minnesota’s soccer team heads west this weekend, facing the middle leg of its six-game road trip at the second annual Soccer Etc. Nike Classic in Boise, Idaho.

The Gophers will open the weekend at 5 p.m. Friday against Boise State (3-1-0) and then play Montana (2-1-1) at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Both games are at Boas Tennis & Soccer Complex.

Gophers first-year head coach Mikki Denney Wright expects a pair of battles with opponents in similar situations to her team.

“The big thing with both Boise State and Montana is that they’re up-and-coming programs,” Denney Wright said. “They’ll be motivated and looking to knock us off.”

Montana also has a first-year head coach in Neil Sedgwick, and Boise State’s program was created just six years ago.

“We’re in the development stage right now,” Sedgwick said. “We’re really looking to take another step this weekend with a win over a good program in Minnesota.”

The Gophers will take on the Grizzlies in the sixth meeting between the two schools. Minnesota leads the all-time series 4-1.

Although Minnesota has the upper hand thus far, Montana might have the edge in depth. While Gophers players struggled finding their wind in last weekend’s 3-0 loss to Central Florida, nine different Grizzlies players have seen action at forward alone.

“Depth is a big issue here,” Denney Wright said. “We’ve got about two substitutions that we can make right now, and that’s about it.”

To add to the Gophers’ concern, Montana has 13 returnees from last season, including 10 of 11 starters.

On the other hand, Boise State has 19 underclassmen, and must replace three All-Western Athletic Conference performers and its top four leading scorers of a year ago.

The Broncos are still strong in goal, though. Sophomore keeper Kim Parker opened up the year with three straight shutouts and is currently 3-1 with a goals- against-average of 0.58, which ranks third in the WAC.

Minnesota’s keeper, Molly Schneider, started off the season with two shutouts of her own and said she isn’t intimidated.

“I don’t know too much about Boise State or Montana,” she said. “But I know if we play our game like we practice all week, we’ll be just fine.”

Denney Wright echoed Schneider’s sentiments and said she’s confident

the team will respond well and build on last weekend’s 1-1 performance at the Alabama-Birmingham Tournament.

“This weekend, I’d really like to see our possession-style offense and consistent attack come together better than it did last weekend,” she said. “We just want to improve every game.”