On a chilly night in the Twin Cities, the Gophers soccer team knew what was at stake, and played like it.
Minnesota needed a win Friday night against Nebraska to secure the fifth seed in the Big Ten tournament. A loss or tie would make things dicey.
“Our back was against the wall, we needed to win to get in,” head coach Mikki Denney Wright said. “I think the group came out with the kind of mentality they needed.”
The Gophers (8-9-2, 5-4-2 Big Ten) stepped up with their best offensive performance of the year, beating the Huskers 6-3.
“We put numbers forward, Nebraska put numbers forward, so we knew it’d be a wild contest,” Denney Wright said. “We finished some great opportunities and really controlled possession.”
The Huskers got off to a quick start when speedy Morgan Marlborough took an early Gophers turnover down the right side of the field and passed to Stacy Bartels for an easy one-touch goal in the first minute of play.
Minnesota responded by scoring the next four goals of the match.
“We felt like Nebraska would score some goals, because they’re talented that way,” Denney Wright said. “But we also knew we’d score some goals, so we just told our kids to stay in there and I thought our kids responded well.”
In the 12th minute, Taylor Uhl tied the game with a goal, assisted by Josie Solie and Shari Eckstrom.
“That was huge — we needed to come back right away to make it back so it was a 0-0 game,” Eckstrom said. “Being down a goal is difficult so I’m glad that we got three in the first. It made it a much more stress-relieving second half.”
Uhl added goals in the 57th and 89th minutes for a hat trick, the 12th in Minnesota history and her second of the season.
Eckstrom, who was one of four seniors playing her last game at home, also had a big night, scoring in the 25th minute and assisting on two of Uhl’s goals.
“We knew coming in we had to win, and it being senior night and everything we were all pretty pumped,” Eckstrom said. “Then when they scored in the first 20 seconds it was a little shocker but we just came out and scored a ton of goals.”
All four seniors received playing time, including backup goalkeeper Katie Roberts-Carlson, who played forward for the final five minutes of the game, recording a shot that dribbled wide of the goal.
“It was awesome. I’m a goalkeeper playing forward but I’ll take what I can get,” Roberts-Carlson said. “It was really fun. I’m just glad my teammates came out and had a great performance.”
Olivia Bagnall (38th minute) and Sheridan Reiners (49th minute) scored Minnesota’s other two goals. Both recorded their first goal of the season, and for Reiners, it was the first of her career.
Minnesota piled up 26 shots, with 11 of them being on goal.
The 6-3 win was the second-largest winning margin of the season for the Gophers, behind a 5-0 win against South Dakota State in August. The six goals are the most scored by the team this season.
“We knew they gave up a lot of goals so finishing our chances was important tonight,” Eckstrom said.
Junior Nicole Baier exited the game in the 23rd minute with an unknown leg injury after being tackled while making a run. Baier was seen on crutches after the game.
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