The Gophers women’s soccer team is still looking for their first win after beginning the season in California with matches against UC Santa Barbara (2-2 draw) and Cal State Fullerton (2-0 loss). They had more away games on the schedule this week as they headed south for two showdowns in the SEC, including their first-ever meeting with the Arkansas Razorbacks on Thursday night.
Head coach Stefanie Golan said before the trip that the Arkansas team would be unlike any team Minnesota had faced in recent years and would test the team’s younger players. It's a theme she sees throughout this year's matchups.
"Our schedule this year, I think, provides [learning opportunities] more than a lot of schedules that we’ve had in the past," Golan said.
Despite struggling against an Arkansas team that both outshot them and had eleven corner kicks to the Gophers' one, they came away with the final score tied at 1-1. The Razorbacks were the first to get on the scoreboard with a goal from Anna Podojil in the twenty-first minute. Minnesota struck back when forward Sadie Harper scored her first goal with the Gophers just after the 52 minute mark in the second half, holding Arkansas to a 1-1 tie through regulation.
The match went into two overtimes, but the Gophers were unable to generate many chances, with just two shots in overtime play.
Sunday’s match against a more familiar Ole Miss team was a different story, having a strong start but eventually falling to the Rebels 2-3 in two periods of overtime. The Gophers hit the ground running with Haley Hartkemeyer scoring on an assist from Athena Kuehn at just 6:09 into the first half. Minnesota was also strong defensively in the first half, allowing just four shots while putting up ten shots against Rebels goalkeeper Ashley Orkus.
The Gophers furthered their lead against the Rebels with midfielder Megan Gray, scoring on a rebound off the left post 30 minutes into the first half. Unlike the first goal, the Rebels were able to respond, scoring just two minutes later and cutting the Gophers lead down to 2-1.
Minnesota managed to hold onto their lead through an increasingly physical second half, with Gophers goalkeeper Maddie Nielsen stopping a flurry of Rebel scoring attempts. With just ten minutes left, however, Ole Miss was able to break through as Molly Martin scored.
In the second overtime it seemed like the Gophers had another draw in the books, until a scrambling play with just 26 seconds left led to a Ole Miss goal. The loss was the third double overtime loss in four games. Golan said the circumstances of the loss were difficult.
"Our team fought like hell to come away with a result and it just didn't happen for us today ... we were so close to getting a second result against an SEC opponent on the road," she said. "We're right there. The team is right on the verge of taking the next step and we're excited to come home."
Minnesota's home opener will be against Marquette University on Thursday, Sept. 5.