The No. 22 Minnesota women’s soccer team took an early lead and never looked back en route to a 2-1 NCAA Tournament first-round victory over Marquette Friday night at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in St. Paul. Kelsey Hood and Julie Rezac notched the first-half scores to give the Gophers (21-3-0) their first NCAA victory since 1999.
“The hardest win in the tournament is the first one,” said Minnesota head coach Mikki Denney Wright. “We haven’t been here before, and I was really proud with how we handled the game. The way we killed off the game at the end really showed a lot of composure.”
With the win, the Gophers will move on to face upstart South Dakota State (15-4-1) in Sunday’s second round match at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium for a chance to advance in the NCAA Tournament. The Jackrabbits knocked off regional fourth seed Colorado 1-0 in the opening match of the day. Minnesota has never made it past the second round in six NCAA appearances during the program’s 16-year history.
Hood (who also celebrated her 22nd birthday Friday) got the scoring started just 7:54 into the first half, bringing the announced crowd of 776 to its feet. Lindsey Schwartz’s free kick sailed into the box, and after a shot was deflected by the Marquette goalkeeper, Hood knocked home her first goal of the season.
Just under seven minutes later, the Gophers struck again. Clare Grimwood sailed a high cross just outside the goal box, where a waiting Rezac headed the ball past former Gopher and current Golden Eagle keeper Chelsey Turner.
“I think it definitely helped us confidence-wise, to get that early lead,” said Schwartz. “Getting up two goals in the first 10-15 minutes really puts a lot of pressure on them. There were some parts that got scary, but we responded really well.”
Faced with the deficit, Marquette went on the offensive in the second half. The Golden Eagles outshot the Golden Gophers 6-4 in over the match’s final 45 minutes (12-9 for the match) and scored their lone goal with 15:15 remaining. Katie Kelly’s free kick sailed into a scrum in front of the goal before being snuck past Dare by Allison McBride.
The goal came in the midst of what was an extremely aggressive second half. Dare and the Gophers successfully defended a yellow-card induced free kick at the top of the penalty box in the 55th minute, and five such cards were issued in the second half, three of them to Marquette.
“It was really chippy out there,” said Rezac about the physical nature of Friday’s match. “Both teams really wanted it, and so we just went in hard to every tackle, as you can tell by all the yellow cards out there.”
Marquette’s last gasp came with just 15 seconds remaining, when Michelle Compty’s open shot at goal from the top of the penalty box was corralled by Dare.
Minnesota’s goals were its only two shots on goal the entire match; Marquette keepers Turner and Natalie Kulla did not record a single save.
Their first NCAA test passed, Minnesota will face an unlikely foe in their second round match-up the surprising Jackrabbits of South Dakota State. The Summit League champions earned their conference’s first-ever NCAA victory in their win over Colorado.
The Gophers defeated SDSU 2-0 in Brookings, S.D. in early September and are 3-0-1 against the Jackrabbits all-time. Sunday’s match is set to begin at 1 p.m. in St. Paul.
“We know each other so well, and that makes it so difficult,” said Denney Wright about Sunday’s match. “They are very tough to score on the key for us is going to be finishing chances against that team.”