For the Minnesota Gophers’ soccer team, the last week has been a little bit of a whirlwind. After clinching a share of the Big Ten Championship, the Gophers dominated the post-season awards. Now, a week later, they’re already preparing to host Michigan as the top seed in the Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament.
For Big Ten Coach of the Year Stefanie Golan, that kind of momentum is key to the Gophers finishing strong in the Big Ten Tournament and making an NCAA tournament run.
“When the season started out, the Big Ten Championship was one of our goals,” she said recently. “But it was critical that we scored multiple goals against Indiana to keep our momentum going. I wish we could have secured the shutout, but we’ll take a three goal performance on the attacking side any day.”
To earn a shutout against Michigan, the Gophers will have to stay focused on the back line. When the team met earlier this season, they played to a 0-0 draw. With Michigan defending with numbers and looking to score on the counterattack, there may be extra pressure on the defense to stay focused even as the Gophers possess most of the ball.
“As a back line, we start the attack. So it’s about making the best decisions on that back line when they win the ball. But it’s also about seeing where we can distribute the ball.”
Rashida Beal is one of the many Gophers honored this past week. As the Big Ten Defender of the Year, she’ll be tasked with keeping the defenders strong on both sides of the ball.
“As a back line, we start the attack,” Beal told FiftyFive.One. “So it’s about making the best decisions on that back line when they win the ball. But it’s also about seeing where we can distribute the ball.”
The teams’ previous meeting was on the road in Ann Arbor and stretched all the way into double over time. Especially for newcomers like Nikki Albrecht, home field advantage may just tip the scales for Minnesota.
“It’s a really important thing to be able to play at home. When a team like Rutgers [that they might face in the final] has to travel all the way to Minnesota, it’s a big toll on academics that comes with them. So for us, it’s one less piece of baggage we don’t have to carry with us and it should help keep our minds clear for the game.”
If the Gophers win tomorrow, they’ll have a tight turnaround for the final on Sunday. But Golan thinks the team is up for it.
“You just have to focus on Friday. We’re going to give everything we can on Friday to win it, and then we’re going to give everything we have on Sunday. When our players need to step up, they do it.”
If Minnesota beats Michigan, they will face either Rutgers or Northwestern in the final on Sunday at home.
No. 1 Minnesota vs No. 4 Michigan
Friday, Nov. 4 – 2:00PM
Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium | St Paul, MN
Broadcast on Big Ten Network and BTN2go