Nov. 2, 2011
On a gusty night in Evanston, Ill., a pair of first half goals lifted the University of Minnesota women’s soccer team to a 2-0 victory over its bordering rival Wisconsin in the first round of the Big Ten Conference Tournament on Wednesday.
The Golden Gophers (9-9-2, 6-4-2 Big Ten) came to play on the opening day of the conference tournament as they jumped on the Badgers (10-7-3, 5-4-3 Big Ten) early on in the match behind a swirling wind that went in favor of the Gophers for the first 45 minutes. After gaining a 2-0 lead within the first 15 minutes of the match, head coach Mikki Denney Wright’s squad put together a strong defensive effort to maintain possession for much of the game and record its fifth shutout of the year.
“We really put together an all-around great defensive performance tonight,” said head coach Mikki Denney Wright. “Even with the wind playing a huge part in the game, our midfield did a great job of holding possession for much of the match.”
Freshman Taylor Uhl, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year on Tuesday, seized the lead for the Maroon and Gold in the 4th minute. The Eden Prairie, Minn. native’s score came after fighting off a pair of Wisconsin defenders, and then the forward chipped a ball over UW’s goalkeeper Michele Dalton, who was tagged the Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year, to the back right corner of the net. Senior Shari Eckstorm was credited with the assist after dishing off the ball for the freshman.
Uhl score was her 14th of the season, which is tied for sixth most in a single season by a Gopher. The score was also her 32nd point of the year, which ranks ninth for a Minnesota player in a single season.
It only took Minnesota eight minutes to extend its lead when junior Marissa Price notched her first score of the season. In the 12th minute of play, the defender from Apple Valley, Minn. setup to take a corner for the Gophers, but to everyone’s surprise, Price’s looping service was assisted by a stiff but favorable wind and snuck inside the far post for a rare score off a corner kick.
Minnesota’s lead would hold as they reached the halfway point. The Gophers dictated the first half as they controlled possession for much of the play and outshot Wisconsin 8-3 with five of their shots being on goal. Gopher goalkeeper Cat Parkhill did not face a shot on goal before halftime.
The shot advantage would balance out in the second half as the Maroon and Gold were faced with the challenge of defending against not only a potent Badger offense but also going head-on into the heavy wind.
Wisconsin would rack up six shots in the half to the Gophers’ one, but UW only tested Parkhill on one shot, which came in the 84th minute.
Badger senior Laurie Nosusch broke through the Minnesota defense and tried to slip a ball inside the right post, but the goalkeeper from Apple Valley, Minn. made a diving save to push the strike out the end line. The attempt was the Wisconsin’s only shot on goal for the match.
The Maroon and Gold take a day of rest to gear up for the regular season Big Ten Champions and No. 10/11-ranked Penn State (18-3-0, 10-1-0 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions are coming off a 3-0 win over Northwestern, who got into the tournament because they are the host team. PSU is currently on a 12-match winning streak with their last loss coming to the Badger squad that the Gophers just defeated.
Minnesota will have its hands full as Penn State suits up the nation’s leading scorer in Maya Hayes. The sophomore forward tallied the lone goal in the Gopher-Nittany Lion matchup that took place earlier this season on October 2 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.
The match will take place on Friday afternoon at 3:45 p.m. at Lakeside Field in Evanston, Ill. The winner will advances to the Big Ten Championship on Sunday to face the winner of the Michigan State-Ohio State match.
“It’s exciting to watch our team come together and play really well at the end of the season,” added Denney Wright. “We now need to get our legs under ourselves and be ready for a very talented Penn State team on Friday.”