Gophers Top Illinois State 3-0 Katie Bethke had three assists in the win to move into a tie for most in the nation.
Senior midfielder Katie Bethke tabbed three assists for an NCAA-high nine on the season as the Minnesota women's soccer team extended its unbeaten streak to nine games on Sunday with a 3-0 shutout over Illinois State.
After a 0-0 stalemate in the first half, the Gophers (8-1-1) exploded in the second stanza with 19 shots and goals from redshirt freshman forward Steph Brandt, and senior midfielders Molly Rouse and Julie Rezac. Bethke, who entered the weekend tied for second in the country with six assists, now moves into a tie for first in the country at nine assists with Silvia Fuentes of Arkansas Pine Bluff.
"We made some adjustments at halftime that allowed us to unlock their defense. They put a lot of numbers behind the ball, and we need to be very creative and mobile to unlock them. I thought we did that in the second half." Minnesota head coach Mikki Denney Wright said. "(The performance) is good going into the Big Ten this week. We feel confident, but we still need to grow."
While the Gophers offense outshot the Redbirds 24-3 on Sunday including 19-2 in the second half, the defense denied Illinois State a shot on goal as sophomore goalkeeper Cat Parkhill picked up her fourth shutout of the season. The Gophers, who have trailed opponents for just six minutes in ten games this season, have now allowed just two goals in their last seven games.
"I'm really proud of how our defense - our back line, our keeper and Kylie (Kallman) - have come around," Denney Wright said. "I thought they played outstanding on Thursday night and again today."
Brandt opened the scoring for Minnesota when she tacked in a rebound for her third goal of the season. Bethke tallied her first assist of the night to start the play, sneaking the ball around a Redbirds defender and feeding junior midfielder Shari Eckstrom with a centering pass. Eckstrom, who tied with Rouse for a game-high six shots, had the initial shot saved by Illinois State goalkeeper Mara Kremenovic, but Kremenovic couldn't control the ball, and Brandt struck the ball home to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead in the 52nd minute.
Rouse would get a goal of her own just over six minutes later when she corralled in a rebound and blasted a shot inside the six-yard box for her fourth of the season - moving the senior from Cambridge, Minn. into a three-way tie with Eckstrom and sophomore forward Allie Phillips for the team high. Senior midfielder Kylie Kallman's corner attempt set up Bethke for a shot just outside the box. Junior defender Tamara Strahota got her head on the strike and tipped the shot away from the scrum to Rouse, who finally found the back of the net to put the Gophers up 2-0 in the 58th minute. While Strahota and Bethke were each credited with assists, Kallman set up her third goal of the weekend to start the play - the senior midfielder also tallied a pair of assists off corner kicks in Minnesota's 3-1 win over No. 20 South Carolina on Thursday.
Bethke would again find herself on the scores sheet for the third and final time when her cross attempt found senior midfielder Julie Rezac streaking towards the far side of the net at the 71:24 mark. The header by Rezac, her first goal of the season, put Minnesota up 3-0 and sealed the win for the Golden Gophers.
Minnesota opens Big Ten play this Thursday on the road at Iowa (7 p.m. start time) before returning to Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Sunday to host Illinois at 1 p.m.