Gophers overpower new Big Ten foes

Minnesota recorded shutout victories against Maryland and No. 16 Rutgers.

Ben Gotz

The Gophers aren’t perfect, but no one can say they’re not resilient.

After last weekend’s 4-1 loss to Wisconsin, the team’s spirits seemed low. But it responded this weekend with a conference sweep, including a victory over No. 16 Rutgers.

“I think that says that we can handle a lot of adversity,” senior captain Katie Thyken said. “We did have a tough loss against Wisconsin. Coming back and getting two wins and getting six points off of that, it’s huge for us.”

The Gophers (10-7-1, 7-4-1 Big Ten) scored two goals against Rutgers, one of the top scoring defenses in the Big Ten. Both goals came off of corner kicks from sophomore midfielder Josee Stiever.

Stiever got her head on a deflection from an Ashley Pafko corner kick 32 minutes into the game for her team’s first score.

But Stiever’s second goal was more impressive. Off another corner kick from Pakfo, she kicked the ball in the air to the corner of the net, all while facing backward.

“Ashley served it in, and it bounced around a few times,” Stiever said. “I was just trying to get a touch on it.”

The Gophers recorded another shutout victory on Friday against Maryland, giving them two victories against the two Big Ten newcomers.

The Gophers and Terrapins held each other scoreless for most of the game, until senior captain Katie Thyken broke through for the Gophers with less than seven minutes to play.

Thyken scored the game-winning goal for the Gophers, with an assist from senior forward Olvia Schultz. From there, sophomore goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs and the Gophers’ defense held on for the team’s sixth conference victory of the season.

The goal was Thyken’s first of the season, after she led the team in all offensive categories last season. Thyken, who left last Saturday’s game against Wisconsin due to an injury, was able to bounce back to help deliver a victory for her team.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Thyken said of her first goal. “It took a while, but it finally got there and it came in a great game at a great moment. It was an awesome pass from Olivia, and I just put it away.”

Hobbs recorded her sixth and seventh shutouts in the two victories, besting her total from last season.

Hobbs received a lot of help from her defenders, who head coach Stefanie Golan praised after the two victories.

“Those kids log so many minutes, and the opponents we played this weekend both have a lot of pace up top,” Golan said. “For them to be able to shut them down and close down anything that would be a dangerous opportunity is fantastic.”

After meeting their new conference foes, the Gophers have just one match remaining in the regular season.

The Gophers already have their ticket punched to the Big Ten tournament the following week, and a good showing there could lead the team to consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

“We just really want to close it out as strong as we can,” Golan said. “We want to put ourselves in the best possible position for the Big Ten tournament.”