After qualifying for the Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament on Wednesday night, IU will have a quick turnaround ahead of its quarterfinal match.
As the eighth seed, IU will face the conference’s first seed, No. 11 Minnesota, on Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis. The Golden Gophers will not be a new opponent for the Hoosiers this season. The two teams met in Bloomington on Sept. 23.
That match may have resulted in a 3-0 victory for Minnesota, but senior defender Marissa Borschke said she feels the result will have little influence on how Sunday’s match plays out.
“If you look back at that game, we played Minnesota very early in our Big Ten season,” Borschke said. “From the team that played Minnesota then to the team that we are now, I think we’ve grown and matured. It’s a completely different team that’s going to be playing.”
Between the Sept. 23 defeat to Minnesota and Wednesday’s 3-2 Senior Night loss to Michigan, IU was defeated only once in seven matches. This stretch included a five-game unbeaten run during which the Hoosier offense produced nine goals.
Freshman midfielder Chandra Davidson helped contribute to this offensive surge by scoring the first IU goal in a 3-2 win against Ohio State on Oct. 13. It was this victory that ultimately gave the Hoosiers the tiebreaker advantage against the Buckeyes and therefore a spot in the Big Ten tournament.
Having this unbeaten stretch and increased offensive proficiency occur during the team’s final games of the regular season indicated to Davidson that IU was peaking at the right time.
“We are all very excited to reach the tournament for the first time since 2013,” Davidson said. “Looking back on the Ohio State game, it felt awesome to be able to get a goal in my first game as a striker, especially since that’s the game that got us through.”
Production from the offense will also be needed Sunday if IU is to pull off the upset. Minnesota finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten regular season standings and earned the first seed instead of Northwestern and Penn State through a series of tiebreakers. This gave Minnesota its fourth Big Ten women’s soccer title and first since 2008.
Minnesota’s form entering the Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament is also something to take note of. Winners of four of its last six matches, Minnesota finished regular-season play by trouncing Maryland 6-0 at home.
Golden Gopher senior goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs hasn’t allowed a goal in her last 362 minutes of play and ranks third in the Big Ten in shutouts, nine, and save percentage, with a 0.825 mark.
At the other end of the field, senior forward Simone Kolander’s 11 goals lead the way for a dynamic Minnesota offense that has produced 42 goals this season, 10 more than any other Big Ten team.
Despite these statistical challenges and the difficulty of traveling to Minnesota for the match, IU Coach Amy Berbary said she feels this all plays into the underdog mentality the team has adopted all season.
“We have prepared for this all year,” Berbary said. “We’ve got the hardest road being the eight seed, but we’ll take every game one game at a time. We have one game left every game of the tournament. We’ll go in with the best effort and the best attitude and leave no regrets.”
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