|| Minnesota vs. Michigan/Michigan State
The University of Minnesota women's soccer team prepares for a big weekend as they welcome Michigan (7-2-0) and Michigan State (7-1-1) to Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. Minnesota (5-4-0) is coming off a tough 2-1 overtime loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten opener, but they look to get back on track against the two foes from Michigan.
The Golden Gophers kick off the weekend against the Wolverines on Friday night at 7 p.m. Admission to this game is only $1 for fans in hopes that they will help "Rock the Robbie". Sunday's match, which will be televised live on the Big Ten Network, begins at 2 p.m. versus Michigan State. All high school varsity and junior varsity soccer players receive free admission to this contest.
The Wolverines enter Friday night's match with a 7-2-0 record, and they are coming off a Big Ten opener win over Indiana. This weekend will be only the fourth road contest for Michigan.
The Maize & Blue have an eager offense that leads the Big Ten in offsides. Currently, they are led in points by Corinne Harris and Meghan Tooey, who both have seven points, but junior forward Nkem Ezurike is the team's most forceful threat. Ezurike missed the team's first four contests because she was competing in the FIFA U-20s World Cup with Canada, but since her return, she has notched two goals and an assist while also racking up a team-high 18 shots, which is matched by Harris. The Candian forward was also joined on the national team by teammate Shelina Zadorsky, while other teammate Christina Murillo played with Mexico.
Michigan's defense is also stiff with Zadorsky heading up the backline and redshirt senior Haley Kopmeyer in goal. Kopmeyer has allowed only four goals on the year and shutout five opponents. Her save percentage of .889 currently ranks 20th in the nation.
The Golden Gophers lead the all-time series 11-6-2. Last season, Minnesota prevailed over the Maize & Blue, 3-2, thanks to a pair of second-half scores by Taylor Uhl with the game-winning goal coming in the final minute of play.
Scouting Michigan State
Michigan State will first take on No. 14 Wisconsin on Friday night before traveling to St. Paul, Minn. to face the Gophers. The Spartans are having a good start to the 2012 season by posting a 7-1-1 record and defeating Purdue in overtime to open Big Ten play.
MSU is led by senior forward Olivia Strander, who has three goals and six assists on the year. Strander, who leads the Big Ten in shot attempts, is assisted by junior Annie Steinlage, who is an offensive-minded defender.
Steinlage is the centerpiece of a physical squad that leads the Big Ten in fouls, but goalkeeper Courtney Clem may be the catalyst in their early season success. The redshirt sophomore has only allowed five goals all year while tallying three shutouts.
Minnesota had a lot of early success in the first handful of meetings against the Spartans, but since 2000, the Golden Gophers have only defeated MSU once, which came in 2007. With not having much recent success against Michigan State, the Gophers trail in the all-time series 9-10-2. Of those 10 losses, the Maroon & Gold have been shutout eight times.
Minnesota vs. the Big Ten
Minnesota currently sits second in the Big Ten in shot attempts and points accumulated. The Gophers' potent offense has also acquired 55 corners, which is top in the league. Despite having an aggressive offense, the Maroon & Gold have shown that they build their offense up from the backline with only having eight offside calls through the first nine matches of the season.
Minnesota has been forced into overtime four times this season, and they have been triumphant only once, which came against then-No. 24 South Carolina. In the three losses, the Maroon & Gold held a distinct shot attempt and shot-on goal advantage over their opponents.
Sophomore Taylor Uhl has been a huge part in the Gophers' success this season with having 11 goals and five assists through the first nine games of the season. Nationally, she ranks first in points per game, tied for first in goals and second in total points.
Uhl has been able to accomplish these marks due to notching two hat tricks already this season while also setting records for consecutive matches with a goal (nine) and a point (11). Her stunning numbers have allowed her to collect one Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honor this fall (Sept. 3).
In Minnesota's nine matches this season, they have snagged the lead within the first 20 minutes of play in six of them. Also, only twice this season have the Maroon & Gold not scored the first goal of a match (USC and San Diego State).
Defending the Robbie
The Golden Gophers have proven over their 20 seasons as a program that it is tough for opponents to pullout a road victory. Over the 20-year span, Minnesota is 117-50-11 on their home pitch, which is a .688 winning percentage.
Taking Over the Reigns
The Golden Gophers are under new leadership for the 2012 season as former head coach Mikki Denney Wright resigned to commit more time to her family. Insert new head coach Stefanie Golan, who was formerly at Army for three seasons. Golan led the Black Knights to a 33-18-10 record in three seasons while also guiding them to a NCAA Tournament berth in 2011, which was only the second in program history.
Strahota Back for a Fifth-Year
After suffering a lower leg injury before the 2011 season, senior Tamara Strahota returns this year for a fifth season. The Burnsville, Minn. was a decorated player prior to her injury with being named a Freshman All-American in 2008 and scoring 41 points in her three playing seasons. With being an athletic and speedy defender, Strahota will be looked at to lead the Gopher defense.
20th Year Anniversary
This fall marks the 20th-year anniversary for Golden Gopher soccer. In that time, the Maroon & Gold have reached the NCAA Tournament seven times and garnered three Big Ten Championships.