The University of Minnesota women’s soccer team dropped its regular season opener Friday evening, falling 2-1 the University of Central Florida Knights at the Lady Vol Classic in Knoxville, Tenn. The Gophers were on the offensive attack the entire evening, notching an impressive 30 shots in the contest, including 12 on goal.
Minnesota also set a new team record with 18 corner kicks, breaking the previous record of 15 that was set against Minnesota-Duluth in 1995.
Junior Lindsey Schwartz netted the Gophers’ first goal of the season with a shot from 25 yards away with just five seconds remaining in the second half, but it wasn’t enough for the Gophers to avoid a season-opening defeat.
“Our offensive attack was amazing,” said head coach Mikki Denney Wright after the match. “We had opportunity after opportunity, but we just couldn’t quite finish.”
Minnesota fell behind in the game’s tenth minute when a clearing attempt off a shot from UCF’s Hanna Wilde was inadvertently kicked in the Gopher net. Courtney Whidden put the Knights ahead 2-0 with a second-period goal of her own in the game’s 65th minute.
The Gophers were stifled by Central Florida goalkeeper Jennifer Manis for the majority of the contest, as the 2006 All-Conference USA second team selection grabbed a career-high 12 saves.
“We got in line and attacked, we shot from distance, we had so many corner (kicks) that were on line and the goalkeeper made some great saves,” said Denney Wright. “The growth in our team from exhibition play was tremendous.”
Forwards Sara Clancy and Lindsey Schwartz paced the Gopher effort on the offensive side with five shots apiece, while Katie Bethke, Kelsey Hood and Kaitlin Wagner each had four. Chelsey Turner also picked up six saves in her first regular season action since Oct. 1 of last season.
“We played a really good game and dominated probably 85 minutes of the match,” said Denney Wright. “I was really happy with our performance, but obviously we need to finish to beat them.”
Denney Wright utilized her roster extensively in the team’s first regular season match-up, as 17 different Gophers saw significant playing time. Freshman Bethke, Kallman, Katie Shelander and Julie Rezac all played over 65 minutes in the opening day defeat.
The play of forwards Schwartz, Bethke and Rezac particularly impressed Denney Wright.
“I thought they played very sophisticated and combined well,” the fourth-year coach said about the trio’s play on Friday. “They’re going to be very dangerous in the Big Ten.”
The Gophers will take Saturday off before tackling the 24th-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers Sunday afternoon at 12 p.m. (CST) at Regal Soccer Stadium in Knoxville. Sunday’s tilt marks the first-ever competition between the two programs. Live stats will be available via a link on gophersports.com.