The Minnesota Golden Gopher soccer team out-shot Iowa 18-2 (including 11-0 in the second half) but dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 decision Friday night at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. The loss dropped Minnesota’s Big Ten record to 5-5-0 (9-8-1 overall) and put them as the No. 6 seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament. The Gophers will square off with third-seeded Illinois Thursday evening in their opening round match. Game time will most likely be at 8:00 p.m.
Despite being out-shot by 16 and losing the battle of corner kicks 9-1 throughout the course of 90 minutes, Iowa managed the game’s only goal at the 32:42 mark in the first half. Alexandria Seydel’s pass into the box found Stephanie Hyink just outside the six-yard box, and her shot found the bottom right corner of the net.
“That’s the game of soccer,” said head coach Mikki Denney Wright. “I’m proud of the way we took it to them in the second half... I think it’s a great lesson (for us). We knew we were going to have to finish to beat them, and we work on finishing every single day, (but) we didn’t finish. We have the shooters, we had the chances.”
Denney Wright’s Gophers worked tirelessly to notch the game’s equalizer and gain their fourth consecutive victory, but came up short despite a number of excellent opportunities. Minnesota out-shot Iowa 11-0 in the second half and had six corner kicks in the final 45 minutes of play (to the Hawkeyes’ zero). Forward Lindsey Schwartz tied a career-high with six shots, and Katie Bethke had four despite missing much of the first half due to an injury.
The Gophers’ most tantalizing opportunity came in the ninth minute of play, when Schwartz’s shot hit off the crossbar before being cleared by Iowa. Clare Grimwood also appeared to score the game-tying goal in the 59th minute of play, after receiving a cross from Rouse on the right side of the field. But Grimwood was called for offsides and the Gophers saw another opportunity pass by. Minnesota was called for five offsides penalties in the loss.
“It’s frustrating, but that’s the way the game goes,” said Grimwood. “You’ve got to put them away when you get the chance, but you can be frustrated for about ten minutes, then you’ve got to look forward to the next game.”
Sara Clancy also appeared to have a scoring opportunity with 23:20 remaining in the match, but her shot sailed high over Iowa keeper Stephanie Swanson. Swanson had three saves on the evening. Freshman Katie Bethke also had four shots, including one on goal.
Friday’s loss was Minnesota’s first against the Hawkeyes since 2002, a 1-0 decision in Iowa City. The last time Iowa won at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium was 2001. Minnesota is now 7-3-1 all-time against Iowa.
“I thought we played tremendous in the second half and created all kinds of (opportunities); we just couldn’t finish,” said Denney Wright. “We hit three posts, we hit a post at the beginning, it was just the perfect storm hats off to Iowa, that’s good for them.”
The Gophers’ attention now turns to the Illini and the opening round of next week’s Big Ten Tournament, hosted by Minnesota for the first time since 1997. Illinois won a closely-fought 1-0 decision Oct. 5 in Champaign, a match that saw the Gophers’ freshman back line of Kallman, Jennie Clark and Julie Rezac each turn in outstanding performances.
Kallman was confident that the Gophers will be able to hang with a powerful Illini team that boasts one of the country’s most dangerous attackers in forward Ella Masar.
“I think at home we’ll have that edge and be able to hold up to them,” said Kallman. “Usually when we hold them in the first twenty minutes, we’ve been a successful team, so that will be our main goal.”
During Minnesota’s last Big Ten Tournament appearance (2005) they also squared off with Illinois, falling 1-0 in the opening round. The other first-round match-ups will feature No. 1 Penn State against the No. 8 Hawkeys, No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 7 Northwestern, and No. 4 Indiana against the fifth-seeded Buckeyes of Ohio State. Official game times and seeds will be announced Saturday morning.
“We also have this entire week to prepare and we have an advantage because we’re hosting the tournament,” said Grimwood about the Gophers’ Thursday match-up with the Illini. “So we have the home field advantage, we have our own beds, we have our own meals. The next thing is just to get ready for Big Tens.”