Soccer slips in first round to Indiana

by Jim Schortemeyer

STATE COLLEGE, Penn. — If there is such a thing as a soccer god, it sure didn’t smile on the Minnesota women’s soccer team this season.
The ghosts of Big Ten tournaments past came back to haunt Minnesota in its 3-2 double-overtime loss to Indiana on Friday. The game came down to penalty kicks before the Gophers succumbed to the Hoosiers 5-4 in a shootout.
Minnesota was knocked out of last year’s tournament by Northwestern. That game also lasted two overtimes before the Wildcats beat the Gophers 5-4 in a shootout to win 3-2.
Coach Sue Montagne and the Gophers were upset after losing a game they controlled for most of the time, while Indiana coach Joe Kelley sounded almost guilty, as if he thought his team had no business winning a game in which it was outshot 19-3.
“We’re definitely just surviving,” Kelley said. “I don’t know if we’ll generate any more goals (in the tournament). They were a much better team than we were today.”
The Hoosiers lost to seventh-seeded Ohio State on Saturday, which lost to Penn State 2-0 in the final on Sunday.
On Friday, Northwestern’s coaching staff lurked on the sidelines, watching a Minnesota team they’d knocked out of the playoffs the two previous tournaments, and was treated to one of the best games of the tournament.
The Gophers started the game by attacking the Hoosiers with a ball control offense. It took Indiana 12 minutes just to cross midfield with the ball in their control.
Meanwhile, Minnesota pelted Hoosiers goalie Ashley Davis with shots. But the Gophers offense slipped when sophomore Laurie Seidl, drained by illness, left the game at the 22-minute mark.
And that’s when a black cat must have crossed in front of the Minnesota bench.
Midway through the first half, a weak pass sailed toward Gophers goalkeeper Larson. She moved to snatch the ball out of the air, but three Minnesota players didn’t hear her call for the ball and a collision ensued.
While the Gophers were untangling themselves, Indiana’s Abby Ryan knocked in a fortuitous Hoosier goal.
“I don’t even know who I ran into,” Larson said. “Sometimes they don’t hear me yell `keeper’ and there’s confusion.”
At the 38-minute mark, Minnesota freshman Juli Montgomery knocked a shot off the Indiana crossbar. Senior Corinne Bolder’s putback was deflected, but junior Megan Johnson was waiting to knock it into the back of the net.
But the linesman ruled Johnson offsides, nullifying the goal. While the Indiana goalie was warming up for the second half, she was approached by a Hoosier assistant coach.
“I assume you thought it was offsides also?” he asked.
“No, it didn’t look like it,” Davis said.
The Hoosiers’ Tracy Grose picked up an insurance goal when her long drive from outside of the goal box just cleared Larson’s fingers.
But Minnesota responded in the 66th minute when freshman Allyson Brodie drove a ball inside the left post to narrow the margin to 2-1.
The Gophers pulled even six minutes later when Touset knocked a low roller past Davis, but both offenses stalled in regulation.
In the two 15-minute overtime periods, the Hoosiers were held without a shot. But Minnesota couldn’t convert its defensive dominance into offense competence.
And so Minnesota’s tournament hopes fell on a shootout. Larson was pulled from goal in favor of freshman Juli Eibensteiner, whom Montagne and Larson say has a knack for guessing which way penalty kicks will go.
But it was the Indiana goalie who came up big. Davis came up with a clutch stop of junior Noelle Papenhausen’s shot — the second of the shootout — to give the Hoosiers an advantage. Indiana’s shooters held on from there to win 5-4.
“Their goalie played out of her mind,” Montagne said.
Mindless goalkeeping, a questionable call or two and simple bad luck led to Minnesota’s fate in the tournament.
Owners of a sixth-place finish in the regular season, the Gophers knew they were still a marked target coming into the tournament.
But with a six-game win streak, and winners of the conference title in regular season last year, Minnesota felt like a favorite.
“Teams knew we were the favorite,” Touset said. “No matter what coaches said, no matter what seed we were, they knew we were the team to beat.”
And beat the Gophers they did — again.