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Gophers Rebound from Loss to Northwestern by Crushing Illinois

by on 16 October 2017

For the Gophers, it seems like the grass is always greener. After falling to Northwestern on turf, they trounced Illinois on grass to earn three points over their long road trip.

Four straight years. That’s how long Minnesota has been stuck playing at Northwestern – the only school in the Big Ten that plays on turf. And for four years, Minnesota has failed to get a result. Thankfully, as they’ve done all year, the Gophers bounced back to get a convincing win at Illinois and salvage their extended (Wednesday to Sunday) road trip.

With only two games left in the conference season, Minnesota just about has its fate in its own hands. If it wins out against Ohio State and Nebraska, the worst it could finish would be second in the conference – and that would require Penn State to win each of its final three games to leap frog the Gophers.

It’s doubtful head coach Stefanie Golan is thinking this way. With Ohio State coming to Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium this Friday, the team will have plenty to think about. The battle with the Buckeyes is the last home game the Gophers are guaranteed this year. With two top-ranked squads going head-to-head, this is a game that cannot be missed.

Minnesota 0, Northwestern 2

Oct. 12, 2017 – Evansville, Ill.

This one was a bit of a clunker. The Gophers worked hard. They played pretty well. But whether the physical challenge of playing on turf or the mental aspect of playing on turf played a bigger role, Minnesota just couldn’t close this one out. Each of Northwestern’s goals were on set pieces. The first was a second chance rebound on a set piece. The second was a miscommunication between keeper and back line on a set piece. There were still moments where the game seemed to be tilting Minnesota’s direction. A handball that went uncalled. Two fantastic chances by Emily Heslin and Kellie McGahn.

Minnesota 4, Illinois 0

Oct. 15, 2017 – Champaign, Ill.

You remember those games where it looks the Gophers are a varsity squad taking on the sophomores? This was one of those. Illinois, to its credit, kept it close until halftime. But from there, with the wind literally at its back, Minnesota looked good (even with camera angles that did not – a good reminder of what a fantastic facility Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium is for for both in-person and broadcast viewing). The defense was stifling. Maddie Gaffney was bombing down the sideline. Molly Fiedler was threading the needle to the tune of two assists. April Bockin continued her scorching run of form with two goals as well as an assist. The two goals between Bockin’s really told the story.

First, Sydney Squires wonder volley. Squires makes her money (or not, but you get it) through pace, a fantastic first touch, and consistent finishing. But there have been a few times this season where she makes a play that’s just bananas. Plays such as:

Second, Emily Heslin. Earlier this year, I rebranded the word howler to have a positive meaning because Heslin’s goal was so absurdly good. Well, she did it again. From way downtown, Heslin bent in an absolutely beauty that the keeper – even with a fantastic effort – just had no chance to save. Despite the dominance of Minnesota’s offense (it scores nearly 2.5 goals/game, next best is less than 2), it really hasn’t shown a strong affinity for set pieces. If Heslin can keep a few of these in her back pocket for tournament time, it could be a big boost when a game gets tight.

Next up

6 p.m., Oct. 20: vs Ohio State (Big Ten Plus)
7 p.m., Oct. 25: at Nebraska (Big Ten Plus)


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