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Analyzing Gophers soccer head coach Erin Chastain’s first year

Chastain led the Gophers to their second undefeated non-conference record (4-0-3) in program history and the first since 2008.
Image by Courtesy of Brad Rempel – Gopher Athletics
Gophers head coach Erin Chastain celebrates her first win with the program in their first match of the season against Baylor on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Under first-year head coach Erin Chastain, the Gophers finished their 2021 campaign with an 8-6-3 record.

After winning the Big Ten Tournament Title in 2018, the Gophers struggled throughout the 2019 and 2020-21 seasons, holding a combined 8-16-7 record. After the spring season in 2021, head coach Stefanie Golan stepped away from the program after nine years.

In need of a new head coach, the Gophers hired Chastain to a five-year deal in June 2021, marking the fifth head coach in program history. She is an alum of the University of Minnesota, returning to her alma mater where she was a student-athlete, four-year starter, and three-year captain from 1993-96.

Before inking her deal with the Gophers, Chastain was the head coach of DePaul University’s women’s soccer program for 14 years. In her last six years with the program, she led the Blue Devils to an overall 78-44-26 record.

Chastain was named the Big East Coach of the Year in 2014 after the Blue Devils won the Big East regular-season championship, the Big East tournament and earned a spot in the NCAA tournament. They finished the season with a 16-1-4 record, ending the regular season without a loss.

Under Chastain, the Gophers started the season holding a 2-0-2 record through their first four matches while scoring just two goals.

Last season, graduate student Makenzie Langdok, senior McKenna Buisman and sophomore Abi Frandsen all played forward. However, they all switched positions this season. Langdok became the starting right-back, Frandsen was the right-back and Buisman started as the left midfielder.

The Gophers’ starting eleven also had three new additions in transfer junior forward Izzy Brown, freshman holding midfielder Lauren Donovan and freshman forward Khyah Harper.

With many players switching positions and new faces in the lineup throughout these early matches, it was just taking time for the Gophers to click as a unit.

While the Gophers’ offense struggled to produce in their first four matches, their backline played stingy defense. Junior goalkeeper Megan Plaschko earned four shutouts through 400 minutes of action, making 15 saves and achieving a career-high nine saves against Mississippi State.

In matches five through seven to finish their non-conference schedule, the Gophers’ new-looking attack started to pick up the pace, scoring six goals, four of them coming in an offensive explosion against Wyoming.

At the same time, the backline continued their strong start to the season, not conceding a goal and leading the program to complete their non-conference schedule with an undefeated 4-0-3 record. Plaschko also added two more shutouts while contributing to one team shutout.

Chastain led the program to its second undefeated non-conference record in program history and the first since 2008.

Through their first five matches of their conference schedule, the Gophers held a record of 2-3, continuing to find the back of the net on their way to scoring 11 goals. Eight of their goals came in two 4-0 wins against Ohio State and Penn State. In their losses, they lost each match 2-1, including a loss against then-No. 9 Rutgers.

The Gophers finished their 2021 campaign with a 2-3 record in their last five conference matches, including a 3-2 loss against then-No. 25 Purdue. Outside of their 5-0 win against Illinois, their offensive production slowed as they scored just four goals in as many matches.

Controlling their destiny with two matches remaining to make the Big Ten tournament, the Gophers dropped both contests against Iowa and Nebraska.

Under Chastain, the Gophers 2021 campaign finished on a disappointing note. They suffered back-to-back shutout losses and missed the playoffs by one point.

The back-to-back scoreless defeats were the only two matches the Gophers did not score a goal in this season. Their 2-0 loss against Nebraska marked their most significant margin of defeat.

Notables from Chastain’s first year

The Gophers scored 19 goals in Big Ten play, ranking second in the Big Ten in conference matches behind Rutgers, who led with 23. They also defeated three teams currently ranked in the RPI top 50 – Baylor, Penn State, and Ohio State.

Plaschko had eight shutouts in 17 matches and conceded 15 goals this season. She made 3.71 saves per match.

The Big Ten named sophomore Sophia Boman to the All-Big Ten Second Team. She finished tied for second on the team with a career-high four goals (two match-winners, one penalty kick) and led the team in assists (4) and shots on goal (14). She played in all but 15 minutes for the Gophers.

After transferring from the University of North Carolina, Brown led the team with six goals in her first season with the Gophers.

A few of the Gophers’ veterans in Buisman, Langdok, and senior Delaney Stekr set new career highs for goals, tallying four, three and two, respectively.

Sophomore Rylan Baker and newcomers Aynsley Conner, Harper, and Christa VanLoon, scored their first goals in Gophers uniforms.

Center backs freshman Elizabeth Overberg and Stekr were the only Gophers who played every minute this season.

Looking ahead

Buisman, Stekr, and senior Alana Dressely all plan to return to the Gophers next season.

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