The Minnesota Golden Gopher Soccer team played its first exhibition match of the 2007 season Saturday afternoon at a rain-soaked Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium, topping the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits 1-0.
The match did not feature the conventional two 45-minute halves. Instead, one 40-minute period and two 30-minute periods were played, with a short five-minute break between each. A steady rain fell throughout much of the competition, which was attended by approximately 200 spectators.
The game’s lone goal came late in the third and final period, when a scrum in front of the SDSU net resulted in a ball deflecting off a Jackrabbit player and into SDSU’s own goal.
Minnesota controlled the ball for the vast majority of the 110-minute competition, notching 12 shots on goal to the Jackrabbits’ two. The Gophers blasted six shots on goal during the final period alone, including three by Elena Fruci. The Gophers’ Molly Rouse, Lindsey Schwartz and Angie Olson all managed two shots on goal apiece during the exhibition match, while Clare Grimwood, Katie Bethke and Carissa Wipperfurth managed one each.
Gopher head coach Mikki Denney Wright was able to play every available player during the course of the extended exhibition, including all three of her goalkeepers Chelsey Turner (first period), Lindsey Dare (second) and Katie Roberts (third).
After the game, Denney Wright said she was pleased with the outcome of the team’s first official competition.
“The weather made the game a little sloppy, especially during the final third,” Denney Wright said. “But I think we were happy with some of the things we saw, and we were able to implement some of our plan only three days into training. I think we have a much better sense of where we are as a team.”
Denney Wright was also impressed with the play of Minnesota’s freshmen, including Rouse, Bethke, Olson Julie Rezac and Kylie Kallman, all of whom saw extensive minutes against the Jackrabbits.
“We were really impressed (with the freshmen), especially their ability to step in and play right away,” Denney Wright said. “But they prepared themselves well too. We have to depend on them this season, and I think there are a number of them that I think will contribute for us.”
Despite the inclement weather, it was a worthwhile exercise for the Golden Gophers and helped identify a number of key strengths and weaknesses for the Minnesota staff.
“I think our execution in the final third needs to be a little better. I was disappointed in the quality of our services, the quality of our runs in the box so there were some things I think we can work on,” Denney Wright said. “Just some small details. But individually I think we’ve come a long way, and we’re excited about some of the depth that we have.”
Minnesota will play its second exhibition match of the season Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa against Drake University at 7:30 p.m. The Gophers begin the regular season Aug. 31 in Knoxville, Tennessee against Central Florida and will play their home opener Friday, Sept. 14 against Dayton.