Days after defeating Nebraska 6-3 in its final regular season game, the Gophers’ soccer team heads to Evanston, Ill., for the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 5 seed.
Minnesota (8-9-2, 5-4-2 Big Ten) will face fourth seed Wisconsin in its first game of the tournament Wednesday. The winner will play the winner of the Penn State-Northwestern matchup.
“I think our kids are confident and they’re excited,” head coach Mikki Denney Wright said.
“It’s a whole new season. It’s postseason play — now it’s win and advance, so it will be a lot of fun.”
The Gophers and Badgers played to a draw earlier this season. Minnesota relinquished two leads in the 2-2 tie. Nicole Baier and Taylor Uhl scored goals for the Gophers.
Minnesota is coming off its best offensive performance of the season, in which it scored six goals against Nebraska. Uhl had a hat trick and Shari Eckstrom, Olivia Bagnall and Sheridan Reiners each chipped in one goal.
The challenge for Minnesota will be to follow up the big win with another win, something it has struggled with this season. The Gophers have only won back-to-back games once this year.
“You just don’t know what to expect with this group. Sometimes they come out really well,” Denney Wright said. “Consistency has really been the issue all year, and I think that’s what you’re going to get with an unseasoned team.”
Uhl’s hat trick against the Huskers was her second of the season and the 12th in Gophers soccer history.
The fourth-seeded Badgers (10-6-3, 5-3-3 Big Ten) finished the regular season by losing 2-0 to Iowa on Friday.
Wisconsin’s two top scorers, Cara Walls and Laurie Nosbusch, will lead the attack.
Walls had nine goals and one assist for 19 points her freshman season, while the senior Nosbusch had six goals and six assists for 18 points.
Both Minnesota and Wisconsin had 14 players register at least 1 point this regular season.
In goal for the Badgers will be redshirt senior Michele Dalton, who started every game for Wisconsin in 2011 and has a goals-against average of 0.91 and 95 saves. She ranks fourth in the Big Ten in both categories.
Denney Wright has a 5-2-1 career record against the Badgers. The teams have split the two Big Ten tournament games against each other.
The first-round games for the tournament Wednesday are Michigan State and Iowa playing at 10:30 a.m., Illinois and Ohio State playing at 1:30 p.m., Penn State and Northwestern playing at 4:30 p.m. and the Gophers and Badgers capping off the day at 7:30 p.m.
Semifinals will be Friday afternoon with the championship game scheduled Sunday at 3 p.m.
Trio of Gophers honored by Big Ten
Freshman Taylor Uhl was awarded Big Ten Freshman of the Year and was voted unanimously onto the All-Freshman Team on Tuesday.
Uhl has 30 points on the season — 13 goals, each worth 2 points, and four assists, each worth one. She currently ranks eighth all-time in Minnesota soccer history for goals scored in a season and second among freshmen. She is tied for 10th all-time in points, third among freshmen.
Uhl was also named Big Ten Offensive Player and Freshman of the Week on Oct. 31. It was her third Freshman of the Week honor and first Offensive Player of the Week honor.
Freshman midfielder and defender Becca Roberts joins Uhl on the All-Freshman Team after scoring two goals and having one assist during her first collegiate regular season. Roberts was named Freshman of the Week on Oct. 10 after she scored the game-winning goal against Iowa.
Senior defender Josie Solie was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team. Solie had three goals and one assist during her final regular season at Minnesota.
Solie also received the Sportsmanship Award for the Gophers, which is given to one player from each Big Ten program.
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