Gophers Are Sweet 16 Bound After 2-0 Win Minnesota shuts out Texas A&M 2-0 to advance to the NCAA Round of 16.
For the second time in three years, the Minnesota women's soccer team has earned a berth in the NCAA Round of 16 following a 2-0 shutout over No. 9 Texas A&M on Sunday afternoon. After over 80,000 cubic feet of snow was cleared from the field between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, junior defender Tamara Strahota tallied the game winner for the Gophers while senior forward Katie Bethke added an insurance goal late in the game. Sophomore goalkeeper Cat Parkhill earned her seventh shutout of the year, making seven saves in the win.
"It's a great win for this team. I thought it was a complete performance. Texas A&M was the second highest scoring offense in the country, and to shut them out including (having) a player down the last 15 (minutes) really speaks to our team's defending," Minnesota head coach Mikki Denney Wright said. "I thought we also created a number of really dangerous chances and played our style of play. This team has played really well all year, but it's great for them to get this kind of result. We truly feel like we belong in the Sweet 16."
Minnesota (14-5-3 overall, 4-4-3 Big Ten) set the pace throughout the first half of play on Sunday, keeping Texas A&M out of the defensive third for much of the first half and limiting the Aggies to just one shot in the opening 45 minutes. Meanwhile, the Gophers peppered Texas A&M with 21 shots overall and 11 in the first half while also taking advantage of the few set pieces they were given. Senior midfielder Kylie Kallman sent her second corner kick of the night sailing into the six-yard box, where Strahota headed the ball passed Aggies goalkeeper Kristin Arnold for the junior's sixth goal of the season at 12:14.
Texas A&M (15-5-3) bounced back in the following halftime with increased pressure, outshooting the Gophers 13-10 in the second half and forcing Parkhill to make six of her seven saves. But even with the change of pace, a key turnover in the defensive third by the Aggie allowed Bethke to tally her sixth of the year at 75:23. Bethke, who leads Minnesota with 25 points this season and added a pair of goals in Friday's 4-2 win over Creighton, found the ball after a failed attempt to clear the zone by the Texas A&M defense and after her first attempt was blocked by Arnold, the senior tapped in the rebound to give Minnesota an insurance goal.
The Aggies had one last hope less than a minute following the goal when senior midfielder Molly Rouse earned her second yellow card of the game at 76:17 and put the Gophers down a player for the remainder of the game. Rouse will also be forced to sit out Minnesota's Round of 16 matchup next weekend.
In goal for Minnesota, Parkhill tied a season-high with seven saves in the win to earn her seventh shutout of the year and 16th as a Gopher.
Minnesota will face off against Georgetown in the Sweet 16 next weekend for the Gophers second round of 16 appearance in program history. Georgetown advanced to the Sweet 16 after defeating Maryland on penalty kicks.