As crazy as it seems, the upcoming 2012 season will be the University of Minnesota's 20th
year of having a women's soccer program. To pay tribute to the past 19
seasons, we will take a look back in time this summer and highlight the
evolution of Gopher soccer year-by-year. The weekly updates will help us
commemorate all the great moments in program history as we head into
the highly-anticipated 2012 season, which kicks off August 17 at
Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium against NCAA College Cup participant
Today's installment takes us to 1996, which was a season that saw the Gophers reach its highest national ranking in school history along with a second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Schedule/Results l Roster l Statistics l Photo Gallery
The University of Minnesota experienced another successful season with a 13-7 overall record and a 5-2 mark in Big Ten Conference play. After some doubt, the Golden Gophers slipped into the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year and played a memorable game against Nebraska. But the year was not without a number of struggles as the Gophers suffered a number of key injuries early in the year, including season-ending knee injuries to Noelle Papenhausen and 1995 Big Ten Player of the Year Jennifer Walek.
The season started with a bang as the No. 14-ranked Gophers opened with a 10-0 victory over Valparaiso. In that game, senior Erin Hussey set two Minnesota and Big Ten records by scoring four goals and tallying 10 points, which are still records to this day. Hussey's efforts got her named Big Ten Player of the Week.
Minnesota would go on to win its next three matches to receive its first Top Ten national ranking at No. 10 on September 23 as they headed for the Portland Classic.
The Gophers' streak would be snapped in a 3-2 defeat to No. 4 Portland, a squad that was the national runner-up in 1995. The team didn't dwell on the loss long as they had to focus on their matchup with No. 14 Washington a day later. The Maroon & Gold would rebound with a 2-1 win over the Huskies.
After defeating UW-Milwaukee at St. Paul Campus Soccer Field, Minnesota opened Big Ten play with a road game at Penn State. The Gophers couldn't get the ball rolling, and the Nittany Lions pulled out a 3-2 overtime victory.
Minnesota returned home looking to regroup against Northwestern and Wisconsin after the heartbreaking loss. The Gophers snagged a hard-fought victory against Northwestern, 1-0, which would setup the showdown with the Badgers, the team Minnesota defeated for the Big Ten title in 1995. In front of a St. Paul Campus Field record crowd of 1,427, No. 16 Wisconsin would defeat the Gophers, 3-1.
Minnesota would come off the loss with a vengeance as they won their next five matches by outscoring their opponents 14-4 during the stretch.
The streak primed the Gophers for a matchup against national power No. 2 North Carolina in the Wisconsin Invitational. Minnesota would play the Tar Heels close but would end up getting shutout, 2-0, by the eventual 1996 National Champions. The loss to UNC didn't faze the Gophers as they rebounded to defeat North Illinois, 3-1, as Jennifer McElmury, Erin Hussey and Vanessa Touset were named to the all-tournament team.
Minnesota closed out the regular season with an unexpected loss to Evansville. It was only the third home loss in Minnesota history at the St. Paul Campus Soccer Field.
The Gophers entered the Big Ten Tournament in Columbus, Ohio as the No. 3 seed, earning a matchup against Northwestern. After a scoreless first half, Minnesota took a 1-0 lead in the beginning of the second period on a McElmury goal. The Wildcats answered with 10 minutes remaining in the contest and then scored again with four minutes left to bounce the Maroon & Gold from the tournament.
After some doubt, Minnesota received an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, having to travel to Lincoln, Neb. to play No. 5 Nebraska. The Cornhuskers jumped to an early 2-0 lead within the first 10 minutes of the match, but the Gophers battled back to even up the match at the end of regulation, 2-2. After playing a pair of overtime periods, Nebraska would break the tie in the 140th minute to win, 3-2.
For the second year in a row, the Golden Gophers would have a player named Big Ten Player of the Year in McElmury, who scored 14 goals and tallied seven assists. The junior also received national recognition as she was named a second-team, All-American and a first team, All-Great Lakes Region honoree. Joining McElmury with All-Region accolades was Touset, who was named to the second team, and Hussey, who was a third team member. McElmury and Hussey, who notched 10 goals and 10 assists, were also named first team, All-Big Ten while Touset was selected a second team defender, All-Big Ten.
Minnesota had a changing of guard in goal as newcomer Dana Larson assumed the starting keeper duties midway through the season. Larson finished the year with a record of 7-3 in the net while allowing 12 goals and owned a goal against average of 1.21. Senior Teresa O'Hearn started the first 10 games in goal for the Gophers. On the season, O'Hearn had a record of 6-4 and a goal against average of 1.17 in 13 matches.
Hussey, a senior forward, capped off her career with 83 points, which surpassed former Gopher Gretchen Brandt for third place in Minnesota history.
The Gophers would end the season second in the region in attendance with an average of 564 fans per match. The home-field advantage proved to be helpful as Minnesota hoisted a 21-3-3 record in the first three season at St. Paul Campus Soccer Field. This tradition of having large crowds and playing tough at home is still true today in the Gopher program.