After defeating Wisconsin in a convincing fashion Wednesday night, the Gophers soccer team hoped to keep its momentum rolling against Big Ten regular season champions and nationally ranked Penn State.
Minnesota struggled to find any space throughout the game as the Nittany Lions collapsed around every Gophers player with the ball in the 3-1 loss for Minnesota.
The loss all but officially ends the Gophers’ season, as they likely would have needed to win the Big Ten tournament to get into the NCAA tournament.
Penn State got the game started with an early goal when Jess Rosenbluth fired a shot from 18 yards out that bounced off the post and Gophers goalkeeper Cat Parkhill into the net in the fifth minute.
“Our game plan was obviously to sit in on them a little bit just because they’re such a lethal attacking team,” said head coach Mikki Denney Wright. “But it was tough because we gave up the early goal.”
Minnesota held off the Nittany Lions’ offense for the rest of the first half but possession in the first 45 minutes heavily favored Penn State.
After the break, the Nittany Lions scored two more unanswered goals. In the 67th minute, Ali Schaefer controlled a cross and put a shot past a diving Parkhill from 14 yards out. Nine minutes later Maddy Evans took a pass in an odd-man-rush opportunity and put in the easy goal.
“With about 20 [minutes] left, and it was still 1-0, we tried to open up on them and push numbers forward, and then they stung us a couple times,” Denney Wright said.
Minnesota got on the board in the 86th minute when Big Ten Freshman of the Year Taylor Uhl volleyed a pass into the goal.
The goal was Uhl’s 15th of the season, which is fourth highest by any player in the program’s 19-year history.
One positive for Minnesota was that the team held Big TenForward of the Year Maya Hayes off of the scoreboard.
Penn State outplayed Minnesota in almost every statistical category, including shots, shots on goal and corner kicks.
After a slow start to the season, Minnesota won four of its last six games. One of those wins came in a 6-3 victory over Nebraska to cement the team’s spot in the Big Ten tournament.
“I thought we were an inconsistent group for the majority of the year,” Denney Wright said. “But that’s very common with young teams — some days they’re very good and some days they’re not so good. I thought we definitely were playing our best soccer at the end of the year.”
For the Gophers, the end of the season was encouraging, as the team’s seven-person freshman class seemed to grow more confident as the season progressed. With a more experienced team next year, Denney Wright said she would like to see the team get off to a fast start.
“Our goal is always to make the [NCAA] tournament — it’s tough to do, but that is our expectation every year.”
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