University of Minnesota Golden Gophers celebrate during the Minnesota Gold Soccer classic at at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.
Coming into the Big Ten Conference tournament as the No. 8 seed, the Minnesota Golden Gophers had an uphill battle to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota had to face the No. 1 seed Nebraska Cornhuskers in the tournament quarterfinals in Champaign, Ill. on Wednesday. The Cornhuskers were too much for the Gophers to stave off elimination as they were defeated 4-1 by the feet of tournament’s top-seed.
The Maroon and Gold struck first with a goal in the first minute of play by freshman Simone Kolander. After that point, it was all Nebraska as they scored four unanswered goals — two from junior Mayme Conroy. Minnesota freshman goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs finished with four saves on the day. The Gophers outshot Nebraska 15-12, but only five of those shots were on goal.
Fouls ultimately would be the deciding factor as the Gophers committed seven fouls in the match to just one for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers put eight of their 12 shots on goal and half made it behind Hobbs.
Hobbs closes out a banner season as the goalie for the Golden Gophers. The rookie from Hugo, Minn. was recently named the Big Ten’s Goalkeeper of the Year as she posted a conference best 114 saves through the team’s 16 regular season matches. With her four saves in the loss to Nebraska, Hobbs finishes the season with the third-best single season mark in Minnesota history with 118 saves.
Minnesota ends their play on the season to this point with an 11-7-2 overall record and are likely done for the year. Minnesota has an outside chance at an at-large bid into the 64-team NCAA tournament field, but likely needed a win or two in the conference tournament held at the University of Illinois to advance to the national first round.
With an overall RPI of No. 23 in Division I women’s soccer, the Golden Gophers earned some clout on the national stage as they were able to pull off a couple B1G upsets. The tough Big Ten conference was ultimately their downfall as they were forced to lineup against the No. 18 ranked Cornhuskers in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America polls. Their early exit suggests the season has come to a close.
Only five Big Ten teams made it into the NCAA tournament field last season. The conference is stronger as a whole nationally this year and may qualify a couple more teams.
Minnesota graduates only three seniors from a strong club that will look to make a deeper run into the playoffs next year. Gophers head coach Stefanie Dolan has a good thing going over at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. Hopefully the team will continue to “Rock The Robbie” next year as they were 6-2-2 at home on the St. Paul campus.