Soccer nearly out of tourney picture

by Anthony Maggio

Minnesota’s soccer team experienced a bit of deja vu last weekend.

Four Sundays ago, the Gophers defeated regionally-ranked Cincinnati at home then dropped two Big Ten road games.

Two Sundays ago, Minnesota beat nationally-ranked Michigan, and then last weekend lost two more Big Ten road games.

But the last two losses were more critical for the Gophers, as they are now 1-5 in the conference, and need a miracle to make the Big Ten tournament.

“In the beginning of the season you set high goals that you hope are realistic,” defender Jen Cressman said. “Right now we can’t reach all those, but hopefully for the rest of the season we can reach some of the goals we still have in mind.”

Minnesota (6-6, 1-5 Big Ten) can still mathematically finish in the top four to make the Big Ten tournament, but it would require Michigan losing the rest of its games, Purdue only beating the Wolverines then losing its other four conference contests, and Penn State losing its final five games.

Oh, and the Gophers must win their final four conference games, including one against the defending Big Ten champion Lions (8-2-1, 4-1).

For that to happen, Minnesota must overcome Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Illinois. The five goals were the most allowed by the Gophers since a 1999 loss to Nebraska in the NCAA tournament. They also gave up 25 shots, a season high.

“They outplayed us,” senior Keely Dinse said. “It was the first time a team has physically outplayed us and I don’t think we knew really how to handle that. They handed it to us. We got our first bad beating. It kind of came at the wrong time of the season.”

The nagging injury to goalkeeper Karli Kopietz’s knee didn’t help things, either. Kopietz played the first half of last Friday’s game against Iowa, but was taken out because of pain. The same happened on Sunday against the Illini.

At this point, coach Barbara Wickstrand wants Kopietz back in the lineup, but realizes her health is most important.

“Number one is her health,” Wickstrand said. “We want to make sure everything is OK. But with Karli in the goal we have a much higher success rate. She is a big part of our ream just like Amanda (McMahon) was.”

Kopietz is still a question mark for this weekend.

Because the Gophers need a minor miracle to make the tournament, the team is forced to re-evaluate its preseason goals, which included a top four finish.

Wickstrand thinks her squad can win three of the four Big Ten games left, and wants to win at least five of the remaining seven games overall.

On Friday, Minnesota travels to Wisconsin-Milwaukee (8-4-1). The Panthers boast a five-game win streak, tallying shutouts in all five victories.

On Sunday, the Gophers play at Northwestern, (3-6-2, 1-4-1) another team with dwindling hopes of a Big Ten tournament bid.

But success the rest of the way requires the Gophers play as if the postseason is still attainable.

“I’m going to play every game like we still can go,” Dinse said. “It’s a little frustrating to know you have to count on other people to lose to get in. But it could happen.”

Anthony Maggio covers soccer and

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