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Published June 13, 2024

Gophers soccer starts crucial home stand with win

The only three-game home stand of the season could push Minnesota into the Big Ten tournament picture.
Image by Olivia Puttin (courtesy)
Izzy Brown and Megan Nemec celebrate a goal against Illinois on Oct. 8, 2023.

To earn a place in the Big Ten tournament, Gophers soccer must continue to secure winning results in the remaining two games of their three-game home stand. 

Minnesota beat Illinois 3-1 on Sunday to earn their first Big Ten win of the season. The Gophers sit 10th in the Big Ten table with five points and a record of 1-3-2 in conference play.

Only the top eight teams in the Big Ten make the conference tournament.

While Minnesota’s current record places them outside that group, they only sit three points behind eighth-placed Iowa.

The stretch of three consecutive home games against Illinois, Ohio State and Nebraska is the longest run of home games in the Gophers’ season and the first since their first two games against Niagara and New Hampshire. Minnesota is 4-2 at home on the season and just 1-2-4 on the road. 

Ohio State and Nebraska are five and six points ahead of Minnesota in the table. Wins against both could propel the Gophers forward and keep their conference tournament rivals within striking distance.

To secure those results, the Gophers must build on their win against Illinois and continue their strong home form. Head coach Erin Chastain outlined her plan to do so ahead of the match against the Fighting Illini.

“I know we’re at home for more than just one, but really, it’s one game at a time,” Chastain said. “Our goal is to get three points, but to do that, we have to focus on the details and how we’re going to play.”


After conceding an early goal, the Gophers produced a much-needed explosive performance against Illinois on Sunday. Graduate Megan Nemec provided all three assists, one to fellow graduate Izzy Brown and two to senior Sophia Romine, in the 3-1 win. 

Illinois’ lone goal came in the fourth minute after midfielder Kennedy Berschel scuffled a corner kick home at the back post after multiple touches in the box. The Gophers were unfazed.

“In that moment, everyone was kind of shut off,” graduate Jordy Rothwell said. “[We were] bringing everybody back together being like, ‘Hey, we got this, we still have 87 minutes left.’”

Minnesota took full advantage of those 87 minutes, starting with Brown’s goal in the 15th minute. Brown was followed by Romine, who made the score 2-1 going into halftime.

Illinois’ back three shape gave Nemec room to run and create those opportunities. 

“We trained on it a lot this week, we knew that the wide spaces were going to work to our advantage since they were in a three-back,” Nemec said.

The Gophers continued to press into those spaces throughout the game, deploying two strikers to give the wide players more options in the box. They broke through one more time in the 87th minute after Illinois’ defense got caught out trying to win the ball back near the corner flag. Nemec saw the opportunity and got a ball through to Romine for her second goal. 

Not only was this match the beginning of the homestand, but it was also the annual Rock the Robbie game, in which Minnesota pushes to break their attendance record. They fell short of the record this year, but notched a sell-out with 1,219 in attendance. 

Ohio State and Nebraska

The Gophers play Ohio State at 6 p.m. Thursday. The Buckeyes sit at seventh in the Big Ten with 10 points and a 3-2-1 record. 

Along with their solid record, Ohio State notched an impressive 2-1 win over No. 16 Indiana on Sept. 28. The Gophers defense will be occupied with forward Kailyn Dudukovich, who leads the Buckeyes in scoring with nine goals in 13 games, along with four assists.

Nebraska has been a bit better than Ohio State this year, sitting fifth in the Big Ten with 11 points and a record of 3-1-2. The Gophers take on the Cornhuskers on Sunday, Oct. 15. at 1 p.m. 

Nebraska’s only conference loss was 1-0 away to No. 4 Penn State on Sept. 24. Senior forward Elanor Dale has notched 19 goals in 14 games, earning four Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week awards in the process.  

With difficult matchups ahead, the home atmosphere will make a difference for the Gophers, according to Rothwell.

“Our fan base is amazing. Having a lot of people here cheering us on was so wonderful,” Rothwell said. “Having three home games where you don’t have to be away from school, you can just stay here and focus in on the job at hand.”

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