The Gopher Women’s soccer match on Sunday against Western Kentucky wasn’t pretty like Thursday night’s 7-0 victory against Bowling Green. Nor did it have all the goal scoring, as the Gophers ground out a 1-0 win on a hot and humid day in early September. But according to University of Minnesota soccer’s head coach Stefanie Golan, it didn’t have to be pretty.
“We are trying to get better each game and today we learned something about ourselves,” said first year Gophers coach Golan. “When you’re in a position to win, even though it’s not the prettiest, that’s a pretty good position to be in.”
The Gopher Women Soccer Team ground out the win on Monday with a second half goal by Katie Thyken. A second half adjustment in attitude may have been the difference maker.
“We talked about it at half time that it doesn’t always have to be pretty,” said Golan. “We were trying to force it to be pretty in the first half. Western Kentucky had a game plan where they kept a lot of numbers behind the ball to make it difficult for us to attack how we like. So we had to adjust, open it up and go a little bit bigger.”
After Minnesota’s offensive attack was continually thwarted in the first half with a packed in WKU defense, the Gophers finally figured a way through in the second half. Haley Helverson stole the ball at midfield and played to Taylor Uhl who weaved her way though until drawing WKU goalkeeper Nikki Hall out of goal. She laid the ball off to midfielder Katie Thyken who slammed the ball home in the 52nd minute.
Less than two minutes later the Gophers came close again when Brianne Price took a shot across goal from 25 yards out only to see the ball hit off the underside of the crossbar and bounce away.
Minnesota saw the game out to its completion only allowing WKU one good chance late in the game where Gopher goalkeeper Cat Parkhill had to come up big with a drop save. The Golden Gophers outshot Western Kentucky 17-3 on the day. The victory puts the Gophers at 4-2-0 on the season.
“I think these sort of games are all about staying focused,” said red shirted senior Tam Strahota whose back line only allowed 3 shots on Minnesota. “Playing a team that is obviously not as good as us, we have to still keep the pressure on them, keep passing one and two touch around them. The longer we keep them in the game the more they are going to believe that they have a chance. So in a game like today it’s all about keeping possession and killing the time on the clock.”
Golan singled out Brianne Price for changing the dynamics of the game at half time. “Brianne Price came in and did really well. She changed the tempo for us.”
The Gophers have two more non-conference matches next weekend at home before kicking into high gear for the Big Ten season. Minnesota will play San Diego State and De Paul next Friday and Sunday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in the Minnesota Gold Classic.
“San Diego State had a big win over Pepperdine University this weekend,” Golan said. “Pepperdine was in the top ten and San Diego was in the top 25. So we expect Friday’s opponent to come in here ranked even higher. They should be athletic and will try to put us under a lot of pressure. We anticipate it to be very similar to what we saw when we played San Diego and USC. The California teams as a whole play pretty similarly. So for us to have already been out there and faced some teams that play like that, we feel pretty good going into this coming game.”