The Minnesota Golden Gopher soccer team grabbed their first conference weekend road sweep in nearly two seasons Sunday afternoon, topping the Wisconsin Badgers 1-0 in Madison, Wisc. The last time Minnesota (currently 9-7-1, 5-4-0 in the Big Ten) swept a conference weekend was Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2005. The Gophers have now won three straight 1-0 decisions.
Forward Lindsey Schwartz scored the lone goal of the afternoon just under five minutes before the end of the first half, her eighth of the season and second in as many games (Schwartz also had the game-winner Friday at Northwestern). A streaking Katie Bethke down the right sideline served a picture-perfect pass into the box, where Schwartz beat Wisconsin’s Jamie Klages with a header to the upper right corner.
“That Bethke-Schwartz combination was brilliant,” said Denney Wright. “We had a lot of chances in the game, but we’ll take the win.”
Bethke earned her league-leading ninth assist on the play, while Schwartz continued her excellent junior campaign by notching her team-leading 21st and 22nd points of the season. Schwartz’s eight goals are the most by a Minnesota player since Rachel Roth score 11 in 2002. Schwartz’s two conference goals this weekend were her first in the Big Ten since 2005.
“It’s a relief,” Schwartz said about notching two Big Ten game-winning goals this weekend. “I was struggling with scoring (to start the Big Ten season), but other girls have been stepping up and scoring. It’s nice to get a couple now in the conference.”
Even before Schwartz’s go-ahead score, the Gophers dominated the pace of the match in the early going. Minnesota out-shot Wisconsin 8-1 in the first 45 minutes, holding the Badgers without a shot on goal in the entire period.
The Golden Gophers had numerous other scoring chances in the early going. Kaitlin Wagner narrowly missed her fifth goal of the season on two separate occasions once on a free kick deep in the Wisconsin zone partway though the period, and once again when her unobstructed shot sailed high in the 42nd minute.
In half number two, a Gopher defense led by a freshman back line of Kylie Kallman, Julie Rezac and Jennie Clark successfully averted an aggressive Wisconsin counter attack. The Badgers’ second half pressure resulted in 7 shots, including excellent scoring chances in both the 68th and 80th minutes. The Badgers had a free kick and two consecutive corner kicks with approximately nine minutes remaining in the half, but could not push across the equalizer. A free kick deep in the Minnesota zone during the final two minutes of the match was also turned away by the Gopher defense.
“To get two shutouts on the road with our three backs being freshman... That was unbelievable,” said Denney Wright. “I thought that our entire team played really well. Our team learned how to grind through on the road, which was an important lesson to learn.”
Gopher keeper Lindsey Dare improved to 3-1-0 since taking over as the Gophers’ starting goalkeeper, recording her third consecutive shutout. It was the eighth shutout of Dare’s career.
“It feels great to beat Wisconsin here, especially after what happened last year,” Schwartz said in reference to the Badgers’ 5-1 victory over Minnesota a year ago. “We pushed through and really did a great job defensively.”
For the game, Minnesota out-shot the Badgers 12-8. In what was an intensely physical match, Minnesota was also called for 19 fouls (to Wisconsin’s four).
Friday night, the surging Gophers will return home to face the Iowa Hawkeyes at Elizabeth Lylee Robbie Stadium in St. Paul. The match will be Minnesota’s final tune-up before the 2007 Big Ten Tournament, which will take place at ELR Stadium Nov. 8-11. As the host team, Minnesota has earned an automatic bid into the tournament and will play their opening-round match on Thursday (Nov. 8) evening.