The Minnesota Golden Gopher soccer team lost a tight back-and-forth battle 3-1 Sunday afternoon against the eighth-ranked Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Ind. Katie Bethke brought the Gophers back from a 2-0 hole with her fifth goal of the season early in the second half, but it wasn’t enough as Minnesota’s record fell to 2-3 in the Big Ten (6-6-1 overall).
Purdue’s Parrissa Eyorokon, one of the Big Ten’s top scorers this season, put the Boilermakers (15-1-2, 5-0-1 Big Ten) up for good just 41 seconds into the match when she redirected a corner kick from eight yards out. Eroyokon also collected an assist on Purdue’s second goal, a Jessica Okoroafo two-on-one strike at the 33:46 mark.
The Gophers did not give in to the nationally ranked Boilermakers, who extended their unbeaten streak to 14 with the win, and controlled the pace of the match for much of the second half. Bethke, an early contender for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, received a pass from fellow freshman Katie Shelander during the game’s 48th minute and nailed a shot from 10 yards out past Purdue keeper Jenny Bradfisch.
Bethke is tops among Big Ten freshman with five goals and has a team-leading 17 points so far this season, while Shelander collected the first assist of her collegiate career. Freshman defender Kylie Kallman also notched an assist on the play, her fourth point of the season.
“I’ve just been so impressed with the play of our freshmen,” said head coach Mikki Denney Wright about a Gopher team that started five first-year players Sunday against Purdue. “To ask these kids to learn and grow while playing in the Big Ten is a definite challenge, but they’ve stepped up when we’ve asked them to.”
Purdue’s third goal came from conference scoring leader Shauna Stapleton during the 84th minute. The Boilermakers entered the match ranked eighth nationally in the NSCAA/adidas poll and 10th according to SoccerBuzz.
“It’s not about the opposition,” Denney Wright said when asked about a Boilermaker team that has not been beaten since Sept 2. “Our kids understand that if we focus on ourselves and our own style, we’re going to be able to play with anybody in the Big Ten.”
Junior goalkeeper Lindsey Dare, who started 12 games and posted the second lowest goals-against-average (0.93/game) in school history last season, saw her first action in goal Sunday in relief of Chelsey Turner. Dare played the final 56:14 of the match.
After outshooting Indiana 7-5 in shots on goal Friday night, the Gophers accomplished the same feat Sunday against Purdue. Clare Grimwood led the way with two shots on goal as Minnesota outdid the Boilermakers in that category 6-5 Sunday.
Before doing so against Michigan and Michigan State earlier this season, the last time Minnesota had outshot back-to-back Big Ten opponents on goal was Oct. 16 (Michigan State) and 23 (Michigan) of 2005.
“Obviously we’re disappointed to go 0-2 on the weekend, but I thought we played well against the top two teams in the conference,” said Denney Wright. “I’m extremely excited about this team we’re still a very dangerous soccer team.”
The Gophers return home to Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium next weekend for their next-to-last home series of the 2007 regular season. They will take on Ohio State Friday night at 7:00 p.m. and Penn State at 11:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Sunday’s match will be taped by the Big Ten Network to be rebroadcast Monday night at 7:00 p.m.
The upcoming weekend also marks Minnesota Soccer’s “Rock the Robbie” weekend, in which the team will attempt to break the program’s all-time two-day attendance mark of 2,489 (set in 2005). Click here for more details on the weekend’s promotions and activities.