Gophers soccer holds off Northwestern en route to a 1-0 shutout victory

Graduate student Makenzie Langdok scored the match’s lone goal, marking her third goal this season and second in back-to-back contests.

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Photo Courtesy of Eric Miller - Gopher Athletics

Graduate student Makenzie Langdok celebrates her second goal of the season with her teammates in a match against Illinois on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in Falcon Heights, Minn.

by Michael Lyne , Sports Reporter

Gophers soccer (8-4-3) held off Northwestern in the second half, securing a 1-0 shutout win to earn a massive three points and move into the top-8 of the Big Ten.

“Proud of this group to post two shutouts this weekend,” Gophers head coach Erin Chastain said. “Sunday games are a grind. Being on the road is a grind. I think the group’s mentality was great today. We scored a great goal and then had to withstand some pressure at the end of the second half. So proud and now we have to get prepared for a good Iowa team on Thursday.”

Early on at the four-minute mark, Northwestern fired a shot into the back of the Gophers’ net, but the referees waved it off as they were offside.

Throughout the rest of the first half, the Gophers controlled the pace and did not allow Northwestern to gain much control of possession in the middle third of the pitch.

Coming off a relentless night of attack in the Gophers’ last match against Illinois, senior McKenna Buisman continued to build off that and pressured Northwestern early.

In the 15th minute, Busiman fired a shot off the crossbar, but it could not find the back of the net and the match remained scoreless. Her early chance fueled the Gophers’ attack, giving them momentum for the remainder of the first half.

At the 20-minute mark, sophomore Sophia Boman intercepted a pass on the left side of the pitch near midfield and she quickly passed the ball upfield to Buisman, who sent a service into the middle of the box. Northwestern’s goalkeeper punched the ball out of the six-yard box, but graduate student Makenzie Langdok sprinted into the box to clean up the loose ball to give the Gophers an early 1-0 lead.

Langdok’s unassisted go-ahead goal marks her third goal this season, as she has also scored in back-to-back matches.

“Kenz [Langdok] played great today and also played great on Thursday,” Chastain said. “That’s typically what you expect out of your fifth years and seniors. They feel the end coming and they really rise to the occasion. I wish I could coach Kenz for longer than just this year. She’s just an awesome right back and a leader for our team. I’m so proud that she’s able to get the reward of scoring some big-time goals for us.”

With under ten minutes remaining in the first half, the Gophers found a high-quality scoring chance. Senior Delaney Stekr sent a service off a free kick to the back right side of the box. Her service connected with sophomore Rylan Baker, who headed the ball just wide of the net.

The Gophers would hold their 1-0 lead heading into halftime as they led in shots (5-3) and corner kicks (2-1). They now have scored 20 of their 27 goals this season in the first half.

The Gophers continued to play stingy defense and held off a lot of late-match high-quality attacks from Northwestern throughout the second half to secure the victory even though the Wildcats played in their third of the field for much of it.

The Wildcats’ most dangerous chance came in the 84th minute when Olivia Stone flew into the box to connect a header off a service, but her shot attempt went just wide left of the net.

Junior goalkeeper Megan Plaschko earned her second straight shutout after posting a three-save performance. She now has eight clean sheets in 15 starts this season.

With the win, the Gophers now sit in the top-8 of the Big Ten with 12 points as they are in a four-way tie for fifth place with Indiana, Iowa and Penn State.

The Gophers also secured their first perfect weekend this season. It marks the first time since 2012 that they have defeated Northwestern and Illinois in the same season.

The Gophers will travel to Iowa City, Iowa, to take on Iowa for their last road game this season on Thursday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. as they look to stay in the top-8 of the Big Ten conference.