Minnesota soccer adds title with Big Ten tournament win

The Gophers won a share of the regular-season conference title on Oct. 26.

Junior forward Julianna Gernes drives the ball up the field on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. The Gophers won 1-0 in the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Chris Dang

Junior forward Julianna Gernes drives the ball up the field on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. The Gophers won 1-0 in the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Dominic Davis

Sophomore midfielder Emily Heslin scored her first goal of the season to give Minnesota a 2-1 win over Rutgers and the Big Ten Tournament title — the team’s second trophy this year.

With the title, Minnesota receives an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

No. 25 Rutgers (11-4-6, 4-2-5 Big Ten) scored in the 84th minute to tie the game at 1-1.

It looked like overtime would be needed, but No. 8 Minnesota (16-3-3, 7-1-3 Big Ten) had other plans.

About one minute after Rutgers scored, junior forward Sydney Squires played across from the right side. Rutgers’ defense got a touch on it, but the ball rolled right outside the 18-yard box to Heslin.

Heslin curled the ball to the top right corner of the net to give Minnesota the lead late in the match.

“It felt so unbelievable,” Heslin said. “It was a team effort the entire game. For me to be the one to put it in the back of the net was amazing.”

Head coach Stefanie Golan said she knew Heslin would eventually get a goal this season.

“Emily Heslin does that all the time in training,” Golan said. “We’ve been waiting for it to come out in a game and it was a perfect time for that to happen.”

Minnesota has now won the regular season Big Ten title and the Big Ten championship. Their next goal is to make it far into the NCAA tournament.

“I’m so proud of this team,” said senior midfielder Josee Stiever. “We talk about it in terms of seasons. We won the first season, we won the second season, and now we are going to celebrate this, but we’re preparing for our third season.”

The Gophers will find out their seed, opponent and game location Monday at 3:30 p.m.

Golan said she would like to be at home in the NCAA tournament if possible.

“Our players have earned a lot of respect throughout the course of the year,” Golan said. “We’re hoping that we get to be home for a couple weekends as opposed to just the opening weekend.”

In the first half, freshman defender Nikki Albrecht set up the first goal for Squires.

Albrecht played a through ball over the defense on the left side of the field to Squires. Squires was one-on-one with Rutgers’ goalie and rolled it past the keeper to the bottom right corner to give Minnesota the lead going into halftime.

Putting more pressure on the opposition allowed Minnesota to take over the game in the first half and get the lead.

“It took us a little bit to settle in and get our pressure as organized as we needed it to be, Golan said. “We’re winning the ball back very high up the field and then we’re being smart with the ball.”

In the semifinal on Friday, Minnesota beat Michigan 1-0 to advance to the final.

Stiever took a shot from the right side of goal. The rebound went to junior forward Julianna Gernes right in front of goal, who tapped in the chance to give Minnesota the lead over Michigan (10-5-4, 6-3-2 Big Ten) in the eighth minute.

Gernes, who scored in three consecutive matches, has six goals this season.

“Since April has been out with injury and even as she was coming back a little bit [Julianna] has stepped up and she has been scoring goals,” Golan said. “Everybody steps up. One of the strengths of our team is that there is not one go-to player.”