The Minnesota Golden Gopher soccer team will face its greatest challenge of the 2007 season when they travel to both Indiana and Purdue for matches against the nationally-ranked Hoosiers and Boilermakers. Friday night's match will kick off at 6:00 p.m. in Bloomington, while the Sunday afternoon matinee gets underway at noon. Live stats will be available for both contests via gophersports.com. The Gophers are 6-4-1 overall this fall, including 2-1 in Big Ten play.
The Tough Road Ahead
The Golden Gopher soccer team suffered its first defeat of the 2007 conference season when they fell to Big Ten foe Illinois on Friday night in Champaign by a score of 1-0. Despite a valliant defensive effort, Minnesota could muster just seven shots and only two on goal as they absorbed just their second shutout of the season.
This weekend, the road does not get any easier for head coach Mikki Denney Wright and her Gophers. Friday night Minnesota travels to Bloomington, Indiana to take on the 9-1-2 Hoosiers. Sunday, the Gophers will do battle with the 11-1-2 Purdue Boilermakers, who are currently riding a 12-game unbeaten streak.
Illini Jump Ahead of Gophers
Looking for their first 3-0 Big Ten start since 1997, the Minnesota Golden Gopher soccer team could not overcome an early goal and lost its conference road opener 1-0 in Champaign, Ill. Friday night. The Gophers fell behind on a goal by the Illini’s Chichi Nweke, 2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, as she scored just 6:09 into the match.
Minnesota (6-4-1, 2-1 Big Ten) was outshot by Illinois (6-4, 1-2 Big Ten) 27-7 in the match, including 11-2 in shots directed on goal.
Lindsey Schwartz led Minnesota with two shots, including one on goal. The Gophers, who entered the game with the third-highest goal total in the conference, were shut out for just the second time in 11 games this season.
Gopher keeper Chelsey Turner also notched a season-high seven saves in the losing effort.
On a team filled with true freshman and sophomores that see significant minutes, senior defender/midfielder Hailey McCarthy stands out as one of the team’s only four-year players. McCarthy has also been nothing short of an “Iron Woman” for the program since her debut in 2004 during that span, she has started a program-record 67 straight contests, the only Gopher player to accomplish that feat. The Minnesota record for most games started in a career is 89, set by Jennifer Walek from 1993-97.
Honoring the Greatest
As part of the team’s season-long effort to honor the 1997 Big Ten Championship squad, head coach Mikki Denney Wright announced this week that Jennifer Walek’s no. 19 jersey will be retired in a halftime ceremony during the Gophers’ match with Ohio State on Oct. 19. Walek, the program’s all-time leading scorer, will become just the second Golden Gopher soccer player to have her jersey retired, joining Jennifer McElmury. McElmury’s no. 27 was retired in 2004.
Walek (1993-1997) was a member of Minnesota’s two Big Ten Championship teams (1995 and 1997) and is arguably the greatest player in Gopher history. She holds nearly all of Minnesota’s career and single-season scoring records, including points (162), goals (60) and assists (42) in a career, as well as points (53 in ’93), goals (22 in ’93) and assists (18 in ’95) in a season. Walek was named the Big Ten’s Player of the Year in 1995, was a three-time All-Big Ten selection and was a two-time NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region honoree.
Although Minnesota was shut out by Illinois in their only action last week, it marked a rare offensive lapse for Minnesota’s improved attack. The Gophers have been shut out just twice in 11 games this season, after suffering eight shutouts a year ago in 19 games. In 2005, the Gophers were shut out six times and seven times in 2004.
Keeper Chelsey Turner had been relatively quiet through Minnesota’s first 10 contests, averaging just 4.4 saves per match. On Friday night, however, Turner passed her greatest test of the season, turning away all but one of Illinois’ 11 shots on goal and notching seven saves.
Still Amongst the Best
Through 11 games and three Big Ten contests, the Gophers still rank amongst the conference leaders in a number of categories. Minnesota is third in the Big Ten in goals per game (2.00), third in fewest goals allowed per game (0.88) and first in corners per contest (7.00).
Around the Big Ten in the Polls
Off to a blazing 11-1-2 start, the Purdue Boilermakers have vaulted up in the national rankings. Currently, Purdue is ranked 11th in the SoccerBuzz poll and 8th in the NSCAA/adidas National Poll. Penn State (8-2-1) is the next highest-ranked Big Ten team, as they come in 10th in both the NSCAA/adidas and SoccerBuzz national polls.
The Gophers remained at no. 13 in the SoccerBuzz Great Lakes Region poll for the second week in a row.
Denney Wright and the Gophers will have their hands full this weekend, as they take on two of the conference’s best teams on the road. First off is the 9-1-2 Hoosiers on Friday night, one of the conference’s most surprising teams. Indiana is averaging 15.5 shots per match this season and is led offensively by sophomore Christie Kotynski (five goals, 15 points). Fellow sophomore Kristen Arnold (six goals, 14 points) has been stellar as well, and together the duo forms one of the region’s most dangerous scoring threats.
Freshman goalkeeper Lauren Hollandsworth has played every minute since the second half of the team’s first non-conference contest and has notched four shutouts.
After tying Michigan last Friday and beating Michigan State 1-0 Sunday afternoon, the Hoosiers jumped up to #25 in the latest SoccerBuzz national poll and are ranked third regionally according to both SoccerBuzz and the NSCAA/adidas polls.
It doesn’t get any easier on Sunday for Minnesota, as they take on the nationally-ranked Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette. Purdue has an overall record of 11-1-2 this season (3-0 in Big Ten play) and has lost just one of their 10 home matches thus far. They are the top team in the Great Lakes region according to SoccerBuzz and second behind only Penn State in the NSCAA/adidas poll.
Outscoring their opponents a whopping 35-3 through 14 matches, the Boilermakers have also put together an impressive 249-93 advantage in the shots department and 93-34 on corner kicks. Amongst the five players already with double-digit point figures, Purdue is led by Shauna Stapleton and Loredan Riverso (18 points). Riverso also leads the conference with seven goals.
Party Like It’s 1999
Minnesota will be looking to snap two dubious streaks this weekend against Indiana and Purdue. The Gophers have not beaten either team on the road since 2000, when they beat both the Hoosiers and Boilermakers by scores of 2-0.
Katie Bethke, a freshman out of Eau Claire, Wisc., has been another highly active attacking player for Minnesota during their stellar start to the season. Bethke’s forte thus far has been in the assists category she is third in the league with six and is tied for eighth in total points (14). Thus far, Bethke appears to be a strong challenger for Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
Through the Gophers’ first 11 games, here is how Bethke compares to other freshmen in the Big Ten:
Goals: Tied-1st (4)
Assists: 1st (6)
Points: 1st (14)
The start time for Minnesota's soccer match with Penn State on Sunday, Oct. 21 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium has been changed to 11 a.m. from the previously-announced time of 1 p.m.
Sunday's match is also scheduled to be televised by the Big Ten Network on tape delay the next evening, Monday Oct. 22 at 7 p.m.