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Minnesota Soccer: Gophers Win Big Ten Tournament on Penalty Kicks

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The seventh seeded Gophers ran the table to the NCAA Tournament

The Gophers are the 2018 Big Ten Tournament Champions!
gophersports.com

The Minnesota Golden Gophers women’s soccer team ran through three higher seeds without giving up a single goal and defeated Penn State on penalty kicks to win the Big Tern Tournament on Sunday. It’s the Gophers second Big Ten Tournament win in three seasons, but this one was much different than 2016.

In 2016 the Gophers won the Big Ten regular season title and were the #1 seed in the Big Ten tournament. In 2018, the Gophers finished seventh in the conference and would need to get past three higher seeded teams. Last Sunday the Gophers upset #2 seeded Rutgers Scarlet Knights 1-0 on their home pitch. That got the Gophers an invite to the Big Ten Final Four held in Indiana this past weekend.

Minnesota would take on #6 seed Nebraska in Friday’s semifinal. It was once again the April Bockin show. The Big Ten Forward of the Year scored both goals to put Minnesota in the championships game with a 2-0 victory.

The Gophers and Nittany Lions would face off on Sunday for the second time this season. Penn State defeated Minnesota 2-0 in the regular season finale. This time, the Gophers were ready for the #15 ranked Nittany Lions. Penn State tried to control the game in the first half, but Minnesota and sophomore goalkeeper Maddie Nielsen were up to the task. Minnesota had several good opportunities early in the second half, but they could not get one past Nittany Lions goalkeeper Amanda Dennis. The game would head into overtime scoreless.

Both teams had opportunity in both overtime sessions, but once again the goalkeepers were up to the task, and the champion and recipient of the automatic NCAA Tournament bid would come down to penalty kicks.

Bockin started the Gophers off with a goal, but the Nittany Lions returned fire. Emily Heslin was next for the Gophers and she nailed the crossbar. Penn State’s Marissa Sheva also missed and it remained 1-1 after two rounds. The Gophers took a lead after round three after a goal by Haley Hartkemeyer and a Haley Moyer miss for PSU. But, the fourth round would go the opposite way with a Haley Mennes miss for Minnesota and a Penn State make. Emily Peterson scored her shot in the fifth round and the Gophers would win with a Nielsen save on the Nittany Lions fifth shot, but Kaleigh Riehl’s shot hit Nielsen’s hand and continued into the net to force extra shots.

Both teams would score in the sixth round with TJ McKendrick scoring for the Gophers. But it would be the seventh round that would be the final decider. Minnesota scored on a blast by Makenzie Langdok. Frankie Tagliaferri stepped up for Penn State and hit a shot to the left of Nielsen, but she guessed right and dove to stop the shot and clinch the title for Minnesota!

April Bockin was named the Offensive Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament and Nielsen was named the Defensive Most Outstanding Player. Emily Heslin was also named to the All-Tournament Team with Bockin and Nielsen.

The Gophers were set to be squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble before winning the Big Ten’s automatic berth Sunday. Now there will be only waiting to see who the Gophers will be playing and where in the NCAA First Round next weekend, not if. The NCAA Selection show will stream live on NCAA.com at 3:30 Central Monday afternoon. Hopefully the Gophers can keep their improbable roll going next weekend!