The Minnesota Gophers soccer team opened the 2021-22 athletic season for the entire program this past weekend at home and earned a 1-0 win over Baylor and a 0-0 draw with Illinois-Chicago. It was the first win as the head coach for Gopher alum Erin Chastain.
The Gophers opened the season last Thursday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie stadium against the Baylor Bears. Minnesota wasted no time as sophomore Sophia Boman from Edina found a rebound after a shot by freshman Khyah Harper and put it into the net to make it 1-0. From there the Gophers defense stepped up as Baylor would end the game with 18 shots, but only five of them would be on net. All five were stopped by Gopher goalkeeper Megan Plaschko and the team would celebrate with Chastain as the final horn sounded.
Minnesota was back in action on Sunday against the Illinois-Chicago Flames. Once again Plaschko was perfect in net stopping the lone shot on goal for UIC. Minnesota put five shots of their own on the Flames net, but UIC goalie Lena Kurtz was perfect as well to keep the game a scoreless draw. It was Plaschko’s seven career shutout in just 12 starts for Minnesota.
While Plaschko has flashed so far this season for Minnesota, she was not one of the three Gophers named players to watch in the Big Ten this season in the preseason media blitz. That honor went to Boman, who proved it right so far with her immediate goal, senior center back Delaney Stekr and senior midfielder Megan Gray. Gray has never missed a match for the Gophers as she enters her senior season.
Minnesota was predicted by the conference coaches to finish in 10th place in the Big Ten this season. Minnesota lost two top players in Katie Duong and Athena Kuehn to the transfer portal in the offseason and will face an uphill climb in Chastain’s first season in charge of the team, but at least in their first two games Minnesota has shown they can keep the ball out of their own net.
The Gophers are back in action Thursday night when they hit the road for the first time this season driving down I-35 for a game in Des Moines against the Drake Bulldogs.