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Minnesota Soccer and Cross Country Begin NCAA Tournament Action

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Three Minnesota teams will try and advance to next weekend

@gophersoccer twitter

Three Minnesota Golden Gophers teams will begin their various NCAA Tournaments on Friday. The Gopher soccer team is fresh off of a run through three higher ranked teams to win the Big Ten Tournament. They will head to Auburn, Alabama for a NCAA First Round matchup against the Auburn Tigers. Both the men’s and women’s Gopher cross-country teams will be headed to Peoria, Illinois for the NCAA Midwest Regional and will try to secure a bid to the NCAA Championships next weekend.

The Minnesota soccer team went on a bit of a miracle run last weekend to win the Big Ten Tournament. The #7 seeded Gophers upset #2 seeded Rutgers on their home field 1-0, and then at the Big Ten Final Four in Indiana defeated #6 seeded Nebraska 2-0 in the semifinals before upsetting top seeded and #15 nationally ranked Penn State on penalty kicks in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Gophers went from sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble to getting the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the big dance.

The Gophers fared well enough to avoid one of the sixteen seeded teams in the 64-team bracket and will instead face unseeded Auburn in the first round. The Tigers are receiving votes in the national poll after finishing the season with a 12-5-2 record. It was a bit of a split season for the Tigers as they went 8-0-1 in the non-conference portion of the season with the only blemish being a 2-2 tie against Clemson. Auburn went just 4-5-1 in the SEC which was good enough for ninth place. They lost to Florida on penalty kicks in the first round of the SEC Tournament. Yet it was still good enough to be one of a record nine SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament. What is this...softball??

Auburn is making its fifth straight trip, and 16th overall trip to the NCAA Tournament. Forward Bri Folds was named a First Team All-SEC player after leading the Tigers with nine goals on the season. She also added seven assists to finish second on the team. Treva Aycock transferred to Auburn from Furman after the 2017 season and was rewarded with a Second Team All-SEC season scoring seven goals and adding six assists. Alyssa Malonson led the Tigers with eight assists on the season and was also named Second Team All-SEC. In goal Auburn will feature Sarah LeBeau who has started every game this season. She has nine shutouts on the season and has allowed just 21 goals in 19 matches.

It will not be an easy task for Minnesota. Auburn is 8-2 at home this season and has outscored its opponents 30-10 at home this season. However, Auburn did play all the ranked SEC teams on the road with the exception of Vanderbilt who beat the Tigers 3-0 in Auburn.

This will be the third meeting between the two schools. Both teams are 1-1 with Minnesota winning at home in 1996 and Auburn winning on a neutral field in 2014. It will be the Gophers third NCAA Tournament appearance in four season and it’s 11th overall. The Gophers are 9-9-1 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, but are 0-8 on the road. The Gophers will need to rely on the leg of Big Ten Forward of the Year April Bockin, and the savy of goalkeeper Maddie Nielson who has not allowed a goal in postseason play this season.

The winner will advance to play the winner of #2 seeded UCLA and San Jose State next weekend.

HOW TO WATCH:

Minnesota Golden Gophers at Auburn Tigers—NCAA W Soccer First Round

When: Friday, 3PM

Where: Auburn, Alabama

Stream: WatchESPN

Live Stats: HERE

Cross Country:

Both the men’s and women’s cross-country teams will compete in the NCAA Midwest Regionals hosted by Bradley in Peoria, Illinois Friday. The 6k women’s race will begin at 11AM while the 10k men’s race begins at Noon. Both teams will be fighting to earn one of the two automatic bids to next weekend’s NCAA Championships in Madison, Wisconsin.

The women’s team will have the best chance of either squad to garner an automatic bid. The #23 ranked Gophers will be one of three ranked teams in the Midwest Regional along with #15 Iowa State and #26 Oklahoma State. Minnesota has not raced against either team this season. Luckilly for the Gophers the majority of the rest of the Big Ten teams will be in either the Great Lakes Regional. Minnesota finished sixth in the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago behind five other ranked teams.

The Gophers will be led as usual by the Hasz sisters. Both had career races at the Big Ten Championships. Bethany Hasz placed fifth and Megan Hasz took 12th. Bethany posted a career-best 6K time of 20:14.1, and her fifth-place finish was the highest B1G finish of her career after she placed 10th a year ago and was 20th as a freshman in 2016. Her race was the fourth fastest time in Gopher history. Megan recorded a season-best time of 20:30.5 to finish 12th overall and earn her third All-Big Ten cross country award of her career with a place on this year’s second team. Both will need to pace Minnesota to get the automatic bid to Madison.

The men’s team will need an epic finish to grab an automatic bid. Only two ranked teams in Iowa State and Oklahoma State will be in the men’s field, but the Gophers will need to drastically improve on their seventh place finish in the Big Ten Championships. Alex Bastin would push for an individual spot however. The redshirt sophomore ran one of the fastest eight-kilometer times in University of Minnesota history to earn Second Team All-Big Ten honors and finish in 8th place at the Big Ten Championships. Basten’s time of 23:45.1 was not only a personal record for the redshirt sophomore, it stands as the eighth-fastest eight-kilometer in Gopher cross country history.

Good luck to all three Gopher squads trying to keep their seasons alive on Friday!