The Minnesota soccer team entered Friday’s third-round NCAA game against Notre Dame with all the energy one would expect from a team that has made such great strides with its program. The Gophers just never expected their season to end as ironically and abruptly as it did.
Just over 3,100 fans showed up to watch the game, many of whom stood in the snow and leaned against a chain-link fence surrounding the field.
The Gophers kept pace with the No. 1 overall seed Fighting Irish in the first half, mustering eight shots and one shot on goal.
Temperatures hovering around 10 degrees mixed with the snow that had been cleared off the field prior to the game created treacherous conditions for both teams.
Gophers midfielder Clare Grimwood likened game play to a slapstick cartoon, and said the field resembled icy cement.
“People would try to stop,” she said. “Their feet would slip out from underneath them, and they’d fall on their butt.”
Grimwood was one of the Gophers’ top performers in Friday night’s game, tallying five shots and one of the team’s two shots on goal.
The second half saw Notre Dame open up its attack. The team tallied three shots on goal in the first five minutes of the half and continued to keep the pressure on Minnesota, forcing three corners and ending the half with a total 24 shots.
Minnesota goalkeeper Lindsey Dare credited her teammates for making quick work of such an imposing offense.
“They absolutely laid themselves out,” Dare said. “It was a heck of a game, and we absolutely played our hearts out.”
Despite an offensive onslaught, Minnesota was able to keep pace with the Fighting Irish in what was essentially an up-and-down-the-field game of pinball. Neither team had strong possession in the second half, and though Minnesota was unable to muster more than two shots, the team spent a considerable amount of time in the Notre Dame zone.
Gophers head coach Mikki Denney Wright said she was pleased to see her team keep up with the Fighting Irish.
“The field conditions were tough for anyone to possess,” she said. “It did get a bit direct. It was up and down, up and down. It was really an incredible pace.”
The overtime period saw a renewed offensive attack for Minnesota. Each team tallied just a shot apiece until the Gophers drew a penalty kick in the seventh minute of overtime.
The call came when Kerri Hanks took a tumble in mid-shot after Gophers defender Krystle Kallman touched her right shoulder. The incident was difficult to see, but it’s possible that the icy field could have factored into the fall.
Prior to the penalty kick, Dare said she was confident and wasn’t feeling any added pressure.
“In a PK,” she said, “all the pressure’s on the shooter. I just do the best I can to try to make an educated guess on where she’s going to go. She went one way, and I went the other. That’s just how it goes.”
Dare dove right to try to make the save, but Hanks slid the ball to Dare’s left, scoring the winning goal for the Fighting Irish and anticlimactically cutting the Gophers’ season short.
Despite the loss, Dare said she has to consider what this season has meant to the program.
“We have team chemistry now that this group, this program hasn’t had for a long time,” she said. “I think we absolutely set a standard.”