The University of Minnesota soccer team fell to Northwestern, 1-0, in its Big Ten home opener on Friday night at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. Northwestern’s Kelsey Hans scored just 1:05 into the game and the Golden Gophers (6-4-0, 0-3-0) were unable to find the equalizer as they lost their third straight game by a 1-0 margin.
Northwestern (6-5-0, 2-1-0) struck early in the second minute when forward Jenny Dunn sent a cross inside Minnesota’s six-yard box and Hans one-timed a shot on goal. Freshman Chelsey Turner (Rochester, Minn.) saved the initial shot, but the rebound came right back to Hans, who scored on the deflection.
Lindsey Schwartz (Bettendort, Iowa) provided Minnesota’s first shot on goal in the 18th minute. Schwartz ran on the ball after a long pass from Kelly Wepking (Pleasant Prairie, Wis.) but was forced to shoot from a tight angle and Wildcats goalkeeper Lauren Johnston made the save.
Elena Fruci (Mahtomedi, Minn.) gave the Gophers another opportunity midway through the first half when she lobbed a pass just over the Northwestern defense, but the ball was just long for Schwartz to catch up.
The Gophers caught a break in the 31st minute when Northwestern defender Tori Bohannon’s shot hit the goal post, preserving the 1-0 score before the teams went into the break.
Minnesota came out looking to attack and pressed for the equalizer throughout the second half. The Golden Gophers had a number of opportunities in the period but were unable to connect. Their best chance came in the 50th minute when Johnston was caught coming off her line. Fruci shot at an open net, but the ball was deflected wide by a Northwestern defender.
Minutes later, Fruci sent a cross near the goal that Renee de St. Aubin (Stillwater, Minn.) just missed getting a foot on before Johnston’s save.
The Gophers continued to press, but each time they caught some momentum they were turned away by the Wildcat defense. Fruci put a couple of shots on goal midway through the second half, but both times Johnston was able to make the save. Later, Kaitlin Wagner (Plymouth, Minn.) took a left-footed shot from outside the 18-yard box that went just wide of the left post.
Turner kept Minnesota within reach on a phenomenal save in the 81st minute when she tipped a shot by Northwestern’s Zendzi Neal over the top of the goal. The Wildcats hit another post on the ensuing corner kick to keep the score 1-0, which turned out to be the final margin.
A season-high 1,011 fans attended the match, but cold and rainy conditions kept Minnesota from seriously threatening the Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium attendance record.
Minnesota will play at home again on Sunday in the Border Battle against rival Wisconsin at 1 p.m. In addition to live stats, live video of the match will be available in the Gold Zone, the premium content site for Golden Gopher athletics.
Head coach Mikki Denney Wright
On what the difference was in this game:
“They had one goal and they were dangerous on the corners. But defensively, we were solid and organized. It was all about our attack and inability to score goals.”
On the Gophers’ inability to score:
“They just couldn’t connect tonight. We just couldn’t score a goal.”
On what the team needs to do to get back on track:
“It’s a long season. I’m not nervous at all. I think we just have to rebound and keep fighting. It’s not like we’re getting blown out. We’re in every game. “
On the importance of Sunday’s game:
“Sunday is just as important as any other game. We just have to turn the corner and start winning games. It could happen tomorrow. It could happen in the Big Ten Tournament. This team will find ways to win games.”
Sophomore Clare Grimwood
On the tough start to the Big Ten season:
“We have to stay positive with ourselves because we’re going win at some point and it has to be on Sunday. We all know that and we’re going to bring everything we’ve got. When we find that ability to score I think it’s going to be a domino effect and we’re going to score in bunches.”
On the importance of winning the next game:
“Every Big Ten game is incredibly important and this game is no different than the championship game in the Big Ten final. Every game has to be played at the highest level.”
Redshirt freshman Elena Fruci
On what the team needs to get back on the winning side of things:
“I think we just need to keep pushing, we’re doing all the right things. It’s the final step that we have to get through.”
On the pressure Northwestern brought:
“I think we got put under a lot of pressure in the beginning and we kind of freaked for a bit. But then we settled down and figured out when to play quick and when to play long.”
On the importance of winning on Sunday:
“We’re going to take it game by game. Sunday is really important and a win would be really nice.”