The Gophers’ inability to put the ball in the back of the net has been their Achilles’ heel all season.
And it played a large part in their final loss of the year Friday. Minnesota fell 3-0 to No. 18 Texas Tech in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Lubbock, Texas.
“It’s a tough loss and hard to end the season like this,” junior midfielder Katie Thyken said at a press conference after the loss, “but … we can’t hang our heads about this season at all.”
The Gophers had chances early in the contest but couldn’t take advantage.
Texas Tech took the lead in the 10th minute on a Jessica Fuston goal.
“When we score early, we finish out the game really strong,” Thyken said at the press conference. “They got the first goal, and it’s always hard to get back on that.”
The Red Raiders struck again on a Janine Beckie rebound goal in the 32nd minute.
The Gophers went into the locker room trailing 2-0 but were outshot only 6-4 through 45 minutes.
“At halftime, the tone of the team was, ‘Hey, we’ve created opportunities. We’re there. We just have to find one of those,’” Gophers head coach Stefanie Golan said at the press conference.
But it was more of the same for the Gophers in the second half, and Minnesota couldn’t put a goal on the board.
The Gophers finished with eight corner kicks, which has been a reliable source of offense all season.
“We knew if we got one of those in, we were right back in it,” Thyken said.
But none came to fruition, and Beckie’s second goal of the game in the 80th minute put the nail in the coffin for the game and the Gophers’ season.
Friday marked the first time in three years — and the first time in Golan’s two-year tenure — that the Gophers qualified for the NCAA tournament.
A tournament bid seemed unlikely at the start of the season after Minnesota graduated four-year starting goalkeeper Cat Parkhill and lost last year’s leading scorer Taylor Uhl to Stanford in the July.
Golan said at the press conference that the program is moving in a positive direction.
“These players really work extremely hard,” she said. “They committed to one another. They committed to how special this opportunity is to be a part of this program.”
Minnesota loses just three players to graduation this offseason and returns top goal-scorer Thyken. The back line will need rebuilding with the loss of senior defenders Lauren Bauer and MacKenzie Misel but will be aided by the presence of 2013 Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year Tarah Hobbs in net.
Hobbs was not 100 percent healthy in the loss to Texas Tech on Friday but still recorded four saves to push her season total to 122 — good for third all-time in Gophers single-season history.