Gophers wrap up another trying conference season

Today’s game at Iowa is an opportunity for Minnesota to finish at .500 (4-4) on the road.

Bob Wothe

For nearly six years, the road has been anything but pleasant for Minnesota’s soccer team.

The Gophers (5-10-0, 1-8-0 Big Ten) have not finished at or above .500 on the road since the 2000 season and haven’t won more than two straight games on the road in six-plus years.

This weekend, though, the team has a chance to change all of that.

After sweeping a road weekend against Wisconsin and Wisconsin-Green Bay two weeks ago, the Gophers can win their third-straight road game and finish the year 4-4 in non-neutral-site away games with a win over Iowa at 7 p.m. Friday. They return home to play North Dakota State at 1 p.m on Sunday.

And the team is confident.

“We’ve got nothing to show but how good we are,” freshman Allison Kempainen said. “I think we can kick Iowa’s and North Dakota’s butts and score lots of goals.”

As the Gophers close out another Big Ten campaign without qualifying for the season-ending tournament, the winless Hawkeyes (0-12-2, 0-8-1 Big Ten) are a welcomed sight.

Iowa has given up four goals per match in its last seven games and has struggled offensively, with leading scorer Lindsey Phillips putting up just five points for the season on two goals and an assist.

On the brighter side of things for the Hawkeyes, goalkeeper Britta Vogele is 2-1 in her career against the Gophers, recording a pair of shutouts.

But the Gophers, who lead the all-time series with the Hawkeyes 4-2-1, are also confident because their injury problem is slowly clearing up.

Juniors Becky Dellaria and Nicki Burnie, who both missed time last weekend with injuries, are expected to contribute more this weekend. Kempainen will play a bigger role, too.

“I’ve been so impressed with the play of Allison,” coach Mikki Denney Wright said. “To have her back in better health this weekend is a huge boost to us.”

On Sunday, the Gophers will look to extend their 8-0-1 unbeaten streak against nonconference opponents on their home pitch as they take on the Bison in the teams’ first-ever meeting.

The Bison (5-7-1) are in their first season at the Division I level and are playing all 17 of their games on the road.

Competing as independents, the Bison are led by Jessica Rodgers with 13 points on five goals and three assists.

But the Gophers aren’t worrying too much about the other team this time around, team members said.

“We’re going into the games expecting to win,” junior Becky Dellaria said. “We can beat these teams if we play as well as we have been and just finish our chances.”