The second half again was the difference in the University of Minnesota soccer team's exhibition victory of Kansas State. Molly Fiedler and Athena Kuehn put goals in the back of the net ten minutes apart to put the Gophers to 2-0 in the preseason.
Fiedler's goal came in the 62nd minute. The junior beat the Wildcats goalie after firing numerous shots throughout the first half. Her goal came from the foot of April Bockin, who has now been a part of two of the three goals in the Gophers preseason.
Kuehn's goal was an acrobatic finish in front of the net to seal Minnesota's victory in the 72nd minute. Her first preseason goal came off a pair of passes from Nikki Albrecht and Julianna Gernes. Golan was excited about the energy at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.
"Number one, the energy that the fans brought was awesome. To have an exhibition where the stands are packed, that is just an exciting thing for our kids to play in front of," said Golan. "As a whole, I think we played extremely well. I think we hit every post and crossbar that is in the entire complex, but that just means we are creating quality looks and those will become goals as the season progresses."
All five of the offensive seniors for the Gophers contributed greatly in the victory. Megan Koenig and Sydney Squires each had four shots in the game to lead the senior class.
Minnesota continued to put on the pressure in the first half, outshooting the Wildcats 11-2 in the first 45 minutes. A pair of those included one shot off the crossbar, keeping the game scoreless at the half.
In the second half it was Fiedler who continued to get in front of the net with opportunities. She put another shot off the post in minute 52, which led to a few more opportunities that just didn't quite find the back of the net.
After the flurry it was Kansas State who put some offensive momentum together. A shot off the crossbar ricocheted off and nearly bounced in before bouncing away from the net, which kept the scoreboard at 0-0. Golan said even with the near goal, she was impressed with how the defense handled it.
14'- Burnett with the textbook slide tackle! pic.twitter.com/BdBh0nq80k
-- Minnesota Soccer (@GopherSoccer) August 12, 2017
"We were on with our jumps and our goalie did a great job at staying connected and being an option for us to relieve pressure. Kansas State did have the opportunity with the shot that went off the crossbar, but we did a great job at staying composed in that moment and we didn't panic."
In minute 61, the Maroon and Gold completed the trifecta of posts with Koenig hitting the right post to put Minnesota's shot advantage at 15-4.
One minute later, Fiedler finally could celebrate with her fifth shot in the game. Fiedler's goal is her first in a Maroon and Gold uniform. The junior has 10 total assists in her first two years, Coach Golan said she was happy with how Fiedler's first goal came to be.
-- Minnesota Soccer (@GopherSoccer) August 12, 2017
"It was great to see the team find that late runner and then Molly to have the composure to finish it," Golan said. "She had that same opportunity before and had it go off the post, a lot of players would then defer the next opportunity, but for her to have the confidence to take the next shot and bury it, that is just awesome."
Kansas State responded with a shot just four minutes later, but it went wide keeping the Gophers on top. Freshman Athena Kuehn entered the game in minute 70, and just seven minutes later put the game away with her first goal as a Gopher. Golan said to have a freshman step up in that moment was an incredible accomplishment.
"Yeah, Athena had gone out because of an injury in the first half, right after she went it. Then after we found out she was cleared to come back in, we send her in and she scores seven minutes later," Golan said. "For her to do that in front of a crowd like this is just a great start for her."
In the final minutes of the game, Minnesota continued to keep the ball near the Kansas State box, Sydney Squires put Minnesota's fourth shot off the post in minute 87 to wrap up an unusual amount of shots off the goal posts.
Minnesota has not lost an exhibition game in over seven years, with only one tie in that span. The Gophers wrap up the preseason with a 2-0 record, with both victories being shutouts. Junior Kailee Sharp saved three shots in the two games, with the Gophers defenders doing outstanding work on their own side of the field.
Next up for the Maroon and Gold will be their first regular season game against the Washington State Cougars. The Pullman, Wash. game will kick off at 9:00 p.m. (CT) and will air on the Pac 12 Network.
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