It’s Tourney Time!
Despite a heartbreaking 1-0 home loss against Iowa Saturday, the Golden Gophers will make their first Big Ten Tournament appearance since 2005 Thursday night against Illinois. The Gophers will be the number six seed in the tournament and take on third-seeded Illinois at 8 p.m. in their first round match-up. If the Gophers win, they will play at 8 p.m. on Friday night against the winner of Purdue/Northwestern. All matches will be held at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in St. Paul, the first time Minnesota has hosted the event since 1997.
Hawkeyes Trip Gophers in Finale
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. 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.
The 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.Past History Against Illinois
The Gophers lost a hard-fought 1-0 decision against Illinois earlier this season, holding their offense to just one score despite 27 shots. It was the turning point for Minnesota’s freshman back line of Julie Rezac, Kylie Kallman and Jennie Clark. The Gophers successfully contained 2006 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Ella Masar, as the Illini have lost just one time in conference play this season when Masar scores.
“I’m proud of the way our back three played on defense,” said head coach Mikki Denney Wright after the Illinois contest. “Illinois is always one of the top-three attacking teams in the Big Ten, and to limit them to just one goal was tremendous.”
The Gophers have struggled in recent seasons against Illinois, with their only victory since 2001 coming in 2005 (a 2-1 regular season win). During the Gophers’ last Big Ten Tournament appearance (2005), the suffered a 1-0 defeat as the No. 5 seed against the fourth-seeded Illini in Ann Arbor, Mich. Current Gophers Lindsey Schwartz, Clare Grimwood, Kaitlin Wagner, Kelsey Hood and Hailey McCarthy all played in that contest.Upsets Frequent in Big Ten Tournament
Unlike the Big Ten regular season (where only three teams have won the conference in 15 seasons, with 10 of those titles going to Penn State), the Big Ten Tournament has featured plenty of memorable upsets in recent years. In 2005, the eighth-seeded Michigan Wolverines stunned top-ranked Penn State in the second round on penalty kicks, while No. 7 Wisconsin (after a first-round 3-0 drubbing of second-ranked Purdue) won the entire tournament with a 3-1 win over the Wolverines.
In 2002, the seventh-seeded Buckeyes also won the tournament, beating No. 5 Wisconsin in the championship. As the seventh seed, Ohio State also advanced to the championship in 1998. As the No. 7 seed in 1996, Indiana also won the tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
The farthest a No. 6 seed (the Gophers’ 2007 draw) has ever advanced is the second round. No. 6 seeds have advanced past the first round two times in the tournament’s history.
Gophers Have Big Ten Tourney History
Although the Gophers did not make the Big Ten Tournament last season and have done so just twice since 2000 , the Gophers do have a history in conference postseason play. In 1999, Minnesota was the No. 4 seed and beat No. 5 Ohio State in the first round, 2-0 (they lost 2-1 to nationally-ranked Penn State in round two). In 1998, the Gophers lost a heartbreaking decision to Indiana, falling 5-4 on penalty kicks after 110 minutes expired with a 2-2 score.
In 1997, the regular season Big Ten Champion Gophers were unseated in the conference tourney by the fourth-seeded Northwestern Wildcats in the tournament’s second round. The Gophers’ only Big Ten Tournament Championship came in 1995, as the Gophers outscored their opponents 6-2 after storming to a 16-5-2 regular season record. Minnesota was also the tournament’s runner-up in 1994.
Bethke Emerges as a Top Freshman
Katie Bethke, a freshman out of Eau Claire, Wisc., has been emerged as star attacker for the Gophers this fall and appears to be a strong challenger for Big Ten Freshman of the Year. She currently leads the Big Ten in assists and is the conference’s top point-getter among freshman.
Through the Gophers’ first 18 games, here is how Bethke compares to other freshmen in the Big Ten:
Goals: Tied-1st (5)
Assists: 1st (9)*
Points: 1st (19)**
*Bethke leads the Big Ten in assists and is ranked 19th nationally
**Bethke is tied for eigth in the Big Ten in pointsBreath of Fresh Air
Bethke is not the only Gopher freshman making important contributions to the Golden Gophers this season. Head coach Mikki Denney Wright regularly starts five freshmen (Bethke, forward Molly Rouse and defenders Julie Rezac, Kylie Kallman and Jennie Clark). In addition, fellow newcomers Katie Shelander and Angie Olson also see significant time. All in all, the freshman class has contributed a combined 11 goals and 17 assists.
One of the signs of a good team is its ability to bounce back from a tough outing, something the Golden Gophers have excelled at this season. Minnesota is 3-6-1 on Fridays so far this season and has a 13-13 scoring margin in those contests. On Sundays, however, the Gophers have much better. Minnesota is 6-2-0 on Sundays this year and has outscored its opponents a whopping 16-5.
Second Half Stars
Not only is Minnesota a “Sunday team,” they’re also a second half team the Gophers have outscored their opponents 21-8 in the second period this season, and have also outshot the opposition 138-111 in the final 45 minutes of play.
Look at Them Now
The Golden Gophers have enjoyed a nice turnaround season in 2007, including an offensive resurgence thanks to a new attacking scheme. A quick statistical comparison through the Big Ten regular season, as compared to 2006:
| ||2006 ||2007 |
|Big Ten wins ||1||5 |
|Goals in Big Ten play||3||11 |
|Goals allowed in Big Ten play|| 12||12 |
|Shots on goal in Big Ten play||23 ||52 |
|Total shots in Big Ten play||51 ||113 |