The No. 21 University of Minnesota women’s soccer team (20-2-0) advanced to the Big Ten Tournament championship game with a 1-0 semifinal victory over Purdue (12-7-2) on Friday afternoon at the Iowa Soccer Complex in Iowa City, Iowa. Clare Grimwood’s goal at the 8:19 mark turned out to be all the Gophers needed to gain their first berth in the Big Ten Tournament championship contest since 1995.
In the ninth minute, Grimwood gained control of a ball in the center of the field and scored with a hard left-footed strike from 30 yards out that beat a leaping Jenny Bradfisch and dipped just under the crossbar. Grimwood’s fourth goal of the season came unassisted. It was her third game-winner of the year.
Senior goalkeeper Lindsey Dare made four saves on the afternoon to record her 16th shutout of the season to set a new Big Ten Conference record for goalkeeper shutouts in a single season. Dare, an All-Big Ten honoree this year, broke Penn State’s Emily Oleksiuk’s record of 15.4 shutouts during the 2000 season.
“This was a huge win for our program,” Minnesota head coach Mikki Denney Wright said. “It has been so rewarding to see what this team has done this year. It’s been amazing to witness what this group has done to understand what it takes to move a program from where it was to where it is now.”
The story of the season for Minnesota has been team defense, and that story was no different Friday afternoon. Beginning with stifling play in the midfield, the Gophers applied pressure starting with forwards and filtering down to stalwart defenders Kylie Kallman, Jennie Clark and Krystle Kallman.
Minnesota was in control of the match throughout the afternoon, outshooting the Boilermakers by an 17-7 margin, including an 11-1 edge in the opening half. Among those 11 shots in the opening half were a pair blasts off the Purdue crossbar. Tam Strahota hit the crossbar with a shallow-angle blast in the 12th minute. A violent Lindsey Schwartz strike also hit the bar with just over 10:00 left in the opening half.
Purdue, the tournament’s third seed, played the majority of the opening half on their heels as Minnesota used the wind as an ally to provide constant pressure on the Boilermaker defensive group. The Boilers were playing without All-Big Ten forward Loredana Riverso, who is training in British Columbia with the U-20 Canadian national team.
Amidst blustery and wet conditions at the Iowa Soccer Complex, Denney Wright and her staff relied heavily on their reserves to spell their starters throughout the match. Shari Eckstrom, Katie Shelander, Sara Clancy and Angie Olson were among those playing significant minutes Friday afternoon.
Katie Bethke, who started the Gophers’ first 18 matches of the season and had been nursing a sore ankle, made her first appearance since Oct. 24 and played 16 effective minutes.
Sunday’s championship match will be the third game for the Gophers in four days, marking the only time this season the Gophers will be forced to play more than twice in a single weekend.
“In this tournament, depth is so important. Our ability to have players come of the bench and contribute helps us keep everyone’s legs fresh,” Denney Wright said. “We’ll concentrate on getting rest and staying healthy over the next few days to be ready for Sunday.”
The Gophers will meet the winner of this afternoon’s second semifinal pitting top-seed Penn State and Michigan State in a Sunday match at the Iowa Soccer Complex. The Big Ten Network will air the game live at 2:00 p.m. (CT).