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 1997, which was a season that saw the Gophers claim their first NCAA victory and served as the program's winningest season up until 2008.
Schedule/Results I Roster I Statistics I Photo Gallery
After having a difficult season a year earlier due to injuries, the Golden Gophers had a positive outlook on the 1997 season as they returned an experienced squad, including the last two Big Ten Players of the Year.
Minnesota would start the year off with a pair of home victories over Evansville and Montana at the St. Paul Campus Soccer Complex.
The program's home streak would be cut short as Cincinnati came a scored only the fifth victory for an opponent in the Twin Cities, 3-1. Two days later, the No. 21-ranked Maroon & Gold edged out Washington State, 3-2, thanks to a goal from sophomore Megan Johnson in the 70th minute. The win began a 15-game unbeaten streak for the Golden Gophers, which is still the longest in school history. The following week, the Gophers played a tight match with UW-Milwaukee as they received their only tie of the streak.
The Gophers would suffocate their next five opponents as the recorded four shutouts in those contests. The lone game that wasn't a shutout was a 4-1 triumph over rival Wisconsin. Of those five matches, four of them were against Big Ten schools.
No. 21 Minnesota pulled off an upset to start October as they hosted No. 11 Michigan and pulled out a 4-3 double overtime victory as Nicole Lee notched the game winner in the 115th minute. A pair of days later, they turned around and shutout Michigan State, 4-0, which marks the last time the Gophers completed a sweep in the annual Michigan-Michigan State weekend.
The Maroon & Gold would hop back on the road the following weekend to defeat Indiana, 3-1, and Ohio State in a double overtime thriller, 2-1. The triumph in Columbus, Ohio clinched the regular season Big Ten title for the Golden Gophers.
The Gophers had a hiccup in the following game as they allowed Penn State to jump out to a 3-0 lead within the first 15 minutes of the match, but Minnesota rallied to knot up the match at 3-3 and snag the 4-3 victory in overtime. The win capped off an undefeated conference season for the Gophers, which had never happened before in the Big Ten.
Minnesota would go on and record a trio of home shutouts against UW-Green Bay, Butler and Baylor before losing to No. 7 Nebraska, 3-1, in the regular season finale.
The Golden Gophers carried the top seed into the Big Ten Tournament as they were set to face Michigan State. Minnesota would make quick work of the Spartans, winning 2-0 and not allowing a shot on goal.
In the second round, the Gophers drew Northwestern. The Maroon & Gold snagged an early 2-0 lead in the first 15 minutes of the match, but the Wildcats battled back to force overtime and then a shootout after the scored remained knotted at 2-2 following two overtime periods. After five kicks, the shootout was tied 4-4, sending it to a sudden death shootout. Northwestern would come away with the victory in the fifth round of the shootout and send Minnesota home early.
Despite losing in the conference tournament, the Golden Gophers would receive a NCAA Tournament bid and host UW-Milwaukee at the St. Paul Campus Soccer Complex. The Maroon & Gold allowed the Panthers to take a 1-0 lead in the first half, but they would eventually take control and notch a pair of goals for the Gophers' first NCAA Tournament win in program history.
Minnesota advanced to the second round and drew the tough task of playing No. 3 Santa Clara at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. In front of 1,108 fans, the Gophers were handed its worst lose all season as the Broncos bombarded Minnesota with four first half scores. The Maroon & Gold would receive a goal from Jennifer McElmury at the 62nd-minute mark, but the damage was done and Santa Clara advanced with a 5-1 victory.
The Gophers would finish the year with an 18-3-2 record, which marked the most wins in program history. That mark would later be surpassed in 2008 when the program garnered 22 victories. Minnesota won the Big Ten Championship after posting a 9-0 conference record, becoming the first team in history to achieve such an accomplishment. The Gophers were led by the Big Ten Coach of the Year Sue Montagne.
On the field, senior McElmury and Jennifer Walek led the Gophers. McElmury was named the Big Ten Player of the Year and an All-American for the second-straight season while Walek was a first team, All-Big Ten selection. McElmury finished the season with 12 goals and 32 points while Walek had five goals and eight assists for 18 points.
Lee, who was named second team, All-Big Ten, also picked up a major portion of the offense for Minnesota, scoring 13 goals and tallying 30 points. Laurie Seidl also received second team, All-Big Ten honors along with winning the Big Ten Newcomer of the Year award and being named a Freshman All-American. Seidl was third on the team in scoring with nine goals and seven assists for a combined total of 25 points.
Minnesota's defense, led by All-Big Ten selections juniors Jamie Wyffels and Vanessa Touset, was spectacular allowing only 30 goals all season and posting shutouts in 10 games.
In goal for the Gophers was sophomore first team, All-Big Ten goalkeeper Dana Larson. Larson played every minute for the Maroon & Gold and was 18-3-2 on the season with 10 shutouts and a goal against average of 1.22.