As a coaching staff, we’re sitting there feeling like it’s coming and then we run out of time. So it’s part of the game we play. It’s part of the reason we love it. But it’s part of the reason you go home and swear at it too.
– Gopher Coach Stefanie Golan
In a cold, windy game where neither team was able to develop much of a rhythm, NC State defeated the Minnesota Gophers on penalty kicks after 110 minutes of back and forth play. Though on paper it looks like something of an upset for the Wolfpack, head coach Tim Santoro didn’t think his team was much of an underdog.
“Coming from the ACC, if you look at our schedule, we play teams like this twice a week for seven weeks straight. So we knew they were very good, but playing a top ten team on the road wasn’t something we hadn’t done before.”
Clearly, the Wolfpack knew they couldn’t play with the Gophers midfield so their game plan was to play physically and send long diagonal balls on the counter attack in an attempt to split the Gopher back line. And they did so effectively, out-shooting Minnesota 10-2 in the first half with the wind at their backs.
NC State also played a high tempo defense which the Gophers struggled to break through. But the Gopher defense held up throughout the match and keeper Tara Hobbs was able to stop the few solid chances NC State put together.
After captain and leading scorer Simone Kolander went down early in the second half after a scramble in the box, the Gophers actually started to surge. Toward the tail end of regulation, the Gophers were pushing forward and creating chances all the way through the end of overtime. Even when the final pass or final finish wasn’t there, it felt as though Minnesota were getting closer to pulling ahead. But as coach Stefanie Golan said several times in her postgame press conference, they simply ran out of time.
“As a coaching staff, we’re sitting there feeling like it’s coming and then we run out of time. So it’s part of the game we play. It’s part of the reason we love it. But it’s part of the reason you go home and swear at it too. It’s because you have these heartbreaking moments,” said a very frustrated coach Golan.
After 110 minutes of regulation play and overtime the game went to penalty kicks, which saw the Gophers lose 4-2 to NC State.
Both coaches were quick to credit the other team for solid play while also bringing up the quirkiness of NCAA Tournament seeding almost immediately. After winning both the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships, the Gophers’ No. 4 seed was a bit of a mystery. Coach Santoro in some ways seemed to agree, saying simply, “To be honest, we shouldn’t have been playing each other tonight.”
In the end, Minnesota finished the season with a record of 16-3-4 (7-1-3), the program’s best single-season record since 2008. Now, as the program shifts into recruiting mode, four Gopher seniors look ahead hoping for more soccer in their future. Forwards Simone Kolander and Josee Stiever, defender Rashida Beal, and goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs all plan to graduate this semester and train for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) draft coming up in January.
“This senior class made so much headway and will be leaving a legacy for the younger players of what’s possible when you’re willing to commit and come out every single day and give all you have to be 5-percent better,” Golan said.
Kolander, whose second half injury kept her out of the remainder of the match, has perhaps garnered the most attention as a pro prospect. In response to questions about how serious that second half injury might have been, coach Golan was unable to give many details other than to say with confidence that it was “not career ending” and that they would be rehabbing her for next week’s game – if there had been one.