According to Minnesota womenâÄôs soccer head coach Mikki Denney Wright, making the NCAA tournament is simple. Not the actual winning part âÄî especially in the Big Ten, where parity reigns âÄî but the formula. It goes like this: play consistently, beat a ranked team or two, and donâÄôt suffer any bad losses. Right now, even after losing 2-1 last weekend to both Penn State and No. 17 Ohio State and slipping to 2-3-1 in the Big Ten, the No. 23 Gophers (10-4-2) are in good shape.
Neither team is panicking, but neither is all that happy with their start to the season, either. After a promising sweep of Massachusetts, the Minnesota menâÄôs hockey team stepped into Western Collegiate Hockey Association play on entirely the wrong foot last weekend, losing a pair at home to conference newcomer Nebraska at Omaha.
Half the teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association played conference series this weekend, but make no mistake âÄî the drama they provided was more than enough for all 12 programs in the newly expanded league. To wit: 46 goals were scored, one WCHA newcomer swept, the other got swept, and two perennial bottom feeders played a classic in MichiganâÄôs Upper Peninsula. LetâÄôs recap the weekendâÄôs WCHA action.
The Gophers would like their first periods back, please. The University of Nebraska at Omaha, a new arrival to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association âÄì though youâÄôd never know it âÄì scored a combined five first period goals and swept Minnesota, 5-4 and 4-2, in its first ever WCHA series. "It was their first WCHA game, they wanted to come out here and prove they should be in this league,âÄù senior winger Jacob Cepis said after Friday nightâÄôs game. âÄúThe problem is, we werenâÄôt ready for it.âÄù
The Gophers womenâÄôs soccer team crossed the halfway point of Big Ten play this weekend, and the season is slowly slipping away. No. 15 Minnesota (10-4-2 overall, 2-3-1 Big Ten) suffered a pair of 2-1 losses on the road, falling to Penn State on Friday night and to No. 24 Ohio State in overtime Sunday afternoon. The Buckeyes, now 6-0-0 in the Big Ten, are in firm control of the conference, while the rest are bunching up behind them. The Gophers, now 2-3-1, dropped to sixth, and the Big Ten title, though not mathematically impossible, is essentially out of reach.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha is, along with Bemidji State, a new arrival to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The Gophers and Mavericks have met only once before, in 2003, but to say the teams are unfamiliar with each other isnâÄôt entirely accurate. Plenty of coaches and players will feel right at home, literally or figuratively, when No. 17 UNO and No. 13 Minnesota meet Friday and Saturday at Mariucci Arena for the seasonâÄôs first WCHA series .
It might not decide the season, but this isnâÄôt just another weekend for the Minnesota womenâÄôs soccer team. The 15th-ranked Gophers hit the road to face Penn State on Friday and No. 24 Ohio State on Sunday, the third place and first place teams in the Big Ten, respectively. The Nittany Lions, after struggling through their non-conference schedule, are 3-1-0 in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are 4-0-0.
Read all the preseason polls, projections and prognostications you want, it takes only one weekend of college hockey to prove that no one knows what a season holds in store âÄî especially in the WCHA. Consider Clarkson: the Golden Knights played two WCHA teams over the weekend, newcomer Nebraska-Omaha and contender St. Cloud State. On Friday, they were stomped on 8-0 by the unranked Mavericks; on Saturday, they rolled over the 4th-ranked Huskies 6-2.
Jay Barriball missed MinnesotaâÄôs final 32 games last season with a left knee injury. With the way heâÄôs started 2010, itâÄôs safe to say the Gophers missed him too. Barriball followed a goal and an assist Friday night with a hat trick Saturday in MinnesotaâÄôs two-game sweep of Massachusetts. The senior captain scored the GophersâÄô first goal of the season and a trio in the first period Saturday, including two top-shelf one-timers from left of the net. Not a bad way to make up for lost time.
ItâÄôs a funny fact of soccer, that a 90-minute game can be decided in 33 seconds; an hour and a half of play reduced to a critical half a minute. Angie Olson and Shari Eckstrom scored back-to-back goals 17 minutes into the second half and No. 16 Minnesota turned a midfield stalemate into a 4-1 victory over Purdue at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium a week and a half after a disappointing home loss to Wisconsin.
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