Minnesota had been shut out in all games dating back to Sept. 12, but that finally changed Sunday afternoon against Ohio State as Athena Kuehn put one past the Buckeyes in the 11th minute en route to a 1-0 victory for the Gophers.
Before the start of the game, there was a brief on-field ceremony celebrating the 20th anniversary of Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium, where a No. 20 jersey was presented to Deborah Olson, the daughter of the late Elizabeth Lyle Robbie and the main benefactor for the stadium's construction in 1998. On the field for the presentation were senior woman administrator of Gopher Athletics Julie Manning, Director of Athletics Mark Coyle and University President Joan Gabel.
Once the game began, the Gophers started quickly. Nikki Albrecht and Patricia Ward got shots on target in the first few minutes. They continued pressure with the help of the back line, who kept the ball circulating back up to the midfielders and forwards. This ability to generate so many shots paid dividends early for the Gophers as Kuehn scored off an assist from Ward in the 11th minute. Kuehn has been the key to victory for Minnesota this season, also scoring the lone goal in their victory over NC State earlier in September.
What was different this game, Keuhn said, was the opportunities the team generated.
"I think it's mostly coming from dynamic movement," she said. "We're very proactive instead of reactive now. So people are feeling more confidence going forward, and I felt like people were more willing to create; which has been really cool in this new system we're trying out."
That new system is a 4-4-2, which has four players at both defense and midfield with two playing at forward. The system allowed the team to generate significant offensive chances and outshoot the Buckeyes 24 to five with nine shots on goal. Head coach Stefanie Golan said the system has helped the press stay organized as they have to cover less ground to create opportunities, and also allowed the team to win possession of the ball from much higher up the field.
Golan noted the strong performance of Ward, who had an assist on Kuehn's goal and six shots.
"On the goal, for her to get on line and pick her head up ... she picked out exactly what she needed to, and the finish from Athena was big time," she said.
The result finally going Minnesota's way after weeks of hardship was huge, and it gave the team room to breathe, said Kuehn.
"For our kids to go in after losing a heartbreaker in overtime on Friday, and then having to turn around and play a fresh team on a Sunday and put out the performance that we did, I couldn't be more proud of them," Golan said.
The Gophers will continue Big Ten play at home against Michigan State on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m.