After an inconsistent weekend in Michigan, the Gophers soccer team held tough this weekend against two top Big Ten opponents, but failed to produce a win.
Minnesota and No. 21 Wisconsin played to a 2-2 draw on a cold and windy Thursday night in Madison, Wis.
The Gophers returned home Sunday and lost 1-0 to No. 23 Penn State.
“I think we’re still struggling a little bit with consistency from our players,” head coach Mikki Denney Wright said.
Minnesota (4-7-2, 1-2-2 Big Ten) scored the only goal of the first half against Wisconsin when junior Nicole Baier scored on a rebound from her own shot.
Freshman Taylor Uhl gave the Gophers a 2-0 advantage early in the second half when she took a shot from the top of the penalty area, beating Wisconsin goalkeeper Michele Dalton.
Minnesota held that lead for about 13 minutes when the Badgers’ Lindsey Johnson headed a cross past Minnesota goalkeeper Cat Parkhill in the 59th minute.
The Badgers evened the score three minutes later when a shot from 20 yards out deflected off of a Gophers’ defender and past a diving Parkhill.
The teams remained tied throughout regulation and both overtime periods.
The 2-2 finish marked the first time the Gophers and Badgers have ever tied.
Parkhill had a season-high eight saves in the draw.
“We just played five of the top five teams in the Big Ten,” Denney Wright said. “For us to come out and have that kind of experience I think is only going to make us better the remainder of the Big Ten season.”
Minnesota owned a 19-11 shot advantage Thursday night but had just one corner kick. Wisconsin had nine, one of which resulted in a goal.
The Gophers faced a very talented Penn State squad in St. Paul on Sunday and struggled throughout the game on offense.
Minnesota failed to register a shot on goal in the first half, while Penn State had two.
“I think in the first half we played with a lot of fight but we couldn’t connect like we did versus Wisconsin,” Baier said. “I thought our speed of play at the beginning was better but towards the end we just kind of lost our momentum.”
In the second half, Penn State amped up its offense and spent the majority of the half in the Gophers’ defensive zone.
The game remained scoreless, however, until the 83rd minute, when top Division I goal-scorer Maya Hayes slipped past the Gophers’ defense and beat Parkhill for her 16th goal. That gave Penn State a lead it would not relinquish.
“I think that we had a good defensive effort today against a very dangerous Penn State team,” Denney Wright said. “We really just didn’t create enough in attacking to put any pressure on them.”
The Nittany Lions outshot Minnesota 16-5. The Gophers managed only one shot on goal.
Minnesota had a strong defensive showing, however. That, along with the lack of penalty calls, seemed to frustrate Penn State for most of the game.
“I think defensively we gave them some things to think about,” Denney Wright said. “But again, you can’t defend for 90 [minutes] — you have to create something in the attacking third and we didn’t do enough of that to put pressure [on Penn State].”
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