The Minnesota Golden Gophers Women’s Soccer team got their home season off to the best possible start with a 2-0 win over Kansas State in front of a packed crowd at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.
Two second half goals were enough for the Gophers to claim victory against the Wildcats in a game where the Maroon and Gold created the majority of the chances.
Kansas State, entering their second season as a program and their first in the Big 12, found tough opposition in the reigning Big 10 champs.
The Gophers were playing in their third match of preseason, and their first at home. Having previously bested Creighton 1-0, the team was looking to build on that momentum before the regular season begins.
The game got off to a somewhat nervy start when Kansas State appeared to break through the Gophers’ backline in the first minute, but defender Emily Peterson made a last ditch tackle at the vital moment.
Aside from that early hiccup, things were mostly golden for the Gophers. Fullback Nikki Albrecht produced her side’s first shot just a minute later after deftly feinting past a defender.
Midfielder Molly Fiedler (that’s something of a tongue twister to say) forced the first save out of the K-State keeper in the sixth minute, who was also called upon to stop a top-corner bound shot from Megan Koenig shortly thereafter.
It was a busy and productive evening for Fiedler, who just about got through the defense on a ball from Albrecht but was bundled off the ball before she could take a shot.
Minutes later, Fiedler teed up her midfield partner Koenig at the top of the box. The senior from Mahtomedi unleashed a blast from 18, but her shot struck the underside of the bar and bounced out.
Late in the half, winger Sydney Squires twisted and turned past a few defenders but put her final effort wide of the post. That would be the last opportunity of the first half as 45 minutes passed with the teams still deadlock.
After the restart, April Bockin found Fiedler in space, but once again the Gophers were denied by the goal frame.
Kansas State would soon get their share of the "bar bad luck" as they had an attempt come back off the crossbar in the 59th minute, with the home side able to scramble away the rebound.
Two minutes later, you guessed it: the Minnesotans were once again denied by the post. This time, it was Koenig putting Bockin’s free-kick off the pipe.
The breakthrough would finally come for Stefanie Golan’s side in the 62nd minute as Fiedler collected a pass from Julianna Gernes and smashed it into the bottom corner. The goal was a fitting reward for a player who looked to be the most influential on the pitch most of the night.
The Gophers doubled their advantage ten minutes later with a beautiful team goal. Kellie McGahn won the ball back deep in the attacking half and dished it to Gernes. Gernes then sent a cross to Albrecht at the back post, who headed the ball across the face of goal. Athena Kuehn then capped the move off when she put the pass beyond the keeper.
Gophers goalie Kailee Sharp, who had little to do in this match, stepped up to snuff out a couple of Wildcat chances and maintained her clean sheet.
In the final ten minutes, Minnesota chased after a third goal. Bockin, who had a good deal of success creating chances for her teammates down the right, found Squires in space. The senior attacker hit a dipping drive from 20 yards out, but the shot drifted just wide.
Bockin broke free down the flank on the next possession and centered to McGahn, whose shot was saved by the keeper.
McGahn then turned provider a minute later when she intercepted a pass then turned her defender before playing in a cross. Squires was unfortunate not to get her name on the scoresheet as she headed the tantalizing feed just wide.
Her bad luck was on example in the 87th minute when Squires struck the post, making that the fourth and final time Minnesota was denied by the woodwork.
The whistle sounded three minutes later, with the Gophers deserved winners.
The ladies next travel to Pullman, Washington to open their regular season against Washington State this upcoming Friday. The game will air at 9 pm central time on the Pac-12 Network.