After trailing 1-0 at halftime, the University of Minnesota women’s soccer team (19-2-0) scored three second half goals to defeat Northwestern (10-9-1) by a 3-1 score in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament. Lindsey Schwartz scored a goal and added two assists. Kaitlin Wagner and Kylie Kallman also scored for Minnesota.
With the victory, the team sets a new school record for victories in a season with 19.
The Gophers played directly into a stiff wind in the first half, with gusts approaching 50 miles per hour. After the Gophers struggled in the opening half to combat the wind and to play to a level they are accustomed to, the Wildcats were able to take advantage. Northwestern’s Veronica Napoli scored the first goal of the match at the 34:01 mark on a Northwestern corner kick opportunity. Napoli's second goal of the season came during a half where the seventh-seeded Wildcats outshot the Gophers by a 9-4 margin.
After collecting themselves during the halftime break and turning the wind from foe to friend, Minnesota came out with guns blazing in the opening minutes of the second half.
Less than five minutes into the second half, sophomore midfielder Molly Rouse sent a long ball from the midfield sideline into the center of the field for teammate Schwartz. Schwartz collected Rouse's pass and flicked it to her left for Wagner, creating a breakaway. Wagner tucked a shot just inside the right post to tie the score at 1-1 with 41:21 remaining in the contest. Rouse's goal was her seventh of the season, setting a program record for assists by a sophomore.
Tamara Strahota, who has been a significant offensive force for the Gophers of late, had a breakaway of her own as she streaked up the left side of the field during the 60th minute. Strahota tracked down a pass from senior midfielder Clare Grimwood at midfield and drew NU goalkeeper Carolyn Edwards out of the net to cut down Strahota’s angle. Strahota fed a ball past a diving Edwards and into the box where Schwartz collected it and found the back of the net. Schwartz’ goal gave the Gophers a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.
With her sixth game-winning goal of the season, Schwartz ties the school record for game-winners in a single season held by Schwartz’ four point performance matched a career-high she first set on Aug. 25, 2006 when she netted a goal and added two assists in a 3-0 win against Drake.
The Gophers continued to play a dominant brand of soccer throughout the second half. With the wind in their favor, Minnesota was able to consistently keep Northwestern on its heels and, with the wind’s help, thwart any building Wildcat attack.
Kylie Kallman’s first goal of the season in the 71st minute sealed the quarterfinal win for the Gophers. Schwartz sent a corner kick to the center of the field, where Kallman dipped to find the end of it. Edwards attempted to punch Kallman’s header wide of the goal, but the shot found the side netting, giving the Gophers a 3-1 lead.
With the game in hand, Denney Wright was able to extend her bench. With a potential for three games in four days this weekend, every bit of rest is sure to benefit the Gophers’ chances of winning their first Big Ten Tournament title since 1995.
Minnesota’s win this morning gave the Gophers their first conference tournament triumph since 1999, when they defeated Ohio State by a 2-0 in the quarterfinal round.