The University of Minnesota soccer team battled its way to a 1-0 victory over a solid Dartmouth team on Friday night at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. Elena Fruci (Mahtomedi, Minn.) scored the only goal of the match and the Golden Gophers displayed some relentless defense to hold off the Big Green and improve to 5-1-1 on the season. Chelsey Turner (Rochester, Minn.) made five saves to record her second straight shutout between the posts.
Dartmouth put the pressure on the Gophers early on, controlling the attack for much of the first 20 minutes. Minnesota’s defense was up for the challenge, however, and held off the initial Big Green rush.
The Gophers first scoring chance came in the 13th minute when Lindsey Schwartz (Bettendorf, Iowa) made a nifty move to win the ball in the middle of the field. She tipped the ball in behind the Big Green defense and shook her defender but was unable to catch up to the ball before Dartmouth goalkeeper Amanda Webb fell on it.
In a physical first half, Dartmouth outshot Minnesota, 3-1. The difference was that the Golden Gophers took advantage of their opportunity. Fruci scored her fourth goal of the season in the 25th minute to give Minnesota the lead. Carlie Edwards (Inver Grove Heights, Minn.) initiated the play by winning the ball in the middle of the field. She tipped the ball ahead to Schwartz, who served a pass in behind the Big Green defense. A Dartmouth defender met Fruci at the ball, but Fruci was the first to get a foot on it. She shook her defender, leaving her all alone against Webb. Fruci fired a diagonal shot from eight yards out on the left side and beat the Dartmouth goalkeeper to the far post to give Minnesota the 1-0 advantage.
A few minutes later, Fruci got out on another run and out-hustled the Dartmouth defender to create another one-on-one opportunity with the goalkeeper. This time, Webb denied her, coming off her line to meet Fruci and deflect the ball away.
The two teams played even up for the remainder of the half, and Minnesota went into the break with the one-goal lead. It was all the Gophers would need, as they played some relentless defense in the second half to shut down every threat the Big Green threw at them.
Darmouth had the first scoring opportunity in the second half in the 62nd minute. Becky Junkermeier recovered a loose ball just outside of the six-yard box on the left side and fired a quick shot towards the net. Turner kept her composure and made a nice save near the post.
Six minutes later, the Big Green had a free kick opportunity just outside the 18-yard box following a Minnesota penalty. Megan Wijas took the free kick but her shot sailed high over the net.
The Big Green continued to press throughout much of the second half, but the Gophers were able to waste the clock with a combination of tough defense and solid goalkeeping by Turner. Dartmouth had a couple of opportunities in the 87th minute on a scramble in front of the box, but the Gophers were able to clear it. The game ended with Minnesota denying yet another Dartmouth free kick opportunity near the penalty box in the closing seconds to preserve the shutout and the victory.
Minnesota will be in action again on Sunday against Northern Colorado in the final game of the Gopher Invitational, with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m. The Bears fell to Iowa earlier in the day by a score of 3-0. In addition to live stats, live video of Minnesota’s match against Northern Colorado will be available in the Gold Zone, the premium content site for Golden Gopher athletics.
Head coach Mikki Denney Wright
On the play of Minnesota’s goalkeepers:
“We’re excited because they’re both performing well. They’re pushing each other and we know that both of them are going to win games for us. We’re confident in both of our goalkeepers. They’ve both had outstanding performances, so they’re splitting time right now. They’re team players so it’s been exciting to have both of them here.”
On the team’s response to Dartmouth’s pressure:
“I thought tonight we were waiting to see how much character we have and how our team would respond to a team like Dartmouth that pressures for so many minutes. We’re young, so you just don’t know what kind of character they have. I was impressed with our character tonight. This team is going to be successful because they have a tremendous amount of heart and they fight. That’s what we were looking to see and we saw it today.”
On the team’s overall performance:
“Our team showed a tremendous amount of heart. We got our goal on a great scoring chance, and then we defended like Minnesota Soccer is supposed to defend. We showed so much character, so much fight and so much heart. I feel great about our overall effort. Tonight was the first time we really felt like we were firing on all cylinders.”
On Northern Colorado:
“They’re athletic and they’re a good team. I thought they had a number of chances on Iowa, especially in the first half. Sunday is going to be interesting again to see the character of our team. After a win like this, we need to come back and be consistent. That’s the biggest challenge right now is developing consistency and coming ready to play on Sunday.”
Forward Elena Fruci
On the team’s overall performance:
“Offensively, our main goal was to hold the ball. We got up a goal so we had to focus on our defense and we defended really, really well as a team tonight. When you get one or two opportunities in a game, you have to take advantage of them and hope to come out with a win.”
On how the team is coming together:
“We’re learning to play together as a team. Last week was a good learning experience and this past week we got to work together as a group, so we’ve kind of grown as a team and have learned how to play together more, and I think it’s really showing.”
On the solid start to the season:
“I hope it keeps getting better and better. It’s the start of a good season. We’re a young team so it’s a great start to have. I hope that we can continue to win and get better as a team. That’s our main goal.”
Defender Hailey McCarthy
On the team’s defensive effort:
“Everybody on the field played defense together for the first time. Our midfielders had a tremendous effort helping us defend earlier on the attack rather than just have our defender’s defend. It was a good team effort.”
On the play of the goalkeepers:
“Either one can step in at any time and get the job done. They’re both unbelievable and they’ve had good competition between them. They come out every game and make huge saves. Turner played great tonight and I know Dare will play good on Sunday.”
On how the team is coming together:
"I think we need to continue to build our offense out of the back line and keep playing as a team. Also, we want to stay consistent with our defense and just keep our effort at a high level. We need to continue to score goals. This year I think we’re definitely a larger threat up top than we’ve ever been before.”
With the 1-0 shutout of Dartmouth, Minnesota has now held five of its seven opponents scoreless this year.
The Golden Gophers have yet to allow a first-half goal in 2006.
Minnesota has not given up a goal on Friday night, either. The Gophers are 4-0-0 and have outscored their opponents 7-0 on Friday nights.
Minnesota has now held 16 of its last 17 opponents, and 22 of 26 over the last two seasons, to one goal or fewer.
With the win, the Gophers assure themselves of finishing above .500 in non-conference play this year. Minnesota is now 5-1-1 with two matches against non-conference opponents remaining on the schedule.
Minnesota improved to 5-1-1 on the season, its best start since 2002.
Chelsey Turner recorded her second straight shutout. She is now 2-1-0 on the year, with her only goal allowed coming against No. 16 Missouri.
Carlie Edwards recorded the first point of her career with the second assist on Elena Fruci’s goal
Jenny Green made the first appearance of her collegiate career when she entered the match in the second half. She recorded the first shot of her career within two minutes after she came into the game.
Elena Fruci took over the team lead in points with her fourth goal of the year. She now has 10 points on the year, one ahead of Lindsey Schwartz who provided an assist on Fruci’s goal against the Big Green.