The Minnesota Gophers soccer team appears to be peaking at the right time. The Gophers closed out he Big Ten regular season on a five game unbeaten streak with a tie of wins and a pair of ties to earn their way into the Big Ten Tournament field for the first time since 2018. The Gophers are the #8 seed in the tournament and will face off against undefeated Big Ten regular season champion Michigan State in East Lansing on Sunday.
After the Gophers east coast swing that saw them earn a point from #14 Rutgers on the road and a win over Maryland, Minnesota returned home for the final time to host Purdue. The Gophers went into the last week of the season ahead of both Iowa and Illinois in the Big Ten standings with a magic number of four points won or lost for the other two schools.
Minnesota took care of their part by defeating the Boilermakers 2-0. Sophia Romine would be the hero for the Gophers scoring both goals in the first half. Both goals came off of corner kicks, the first in the 7th minute off of the foot of Sophia Boman and then to Gabrielle Cesarone before Romine finished it off. The second goal would come in the 23rd minute and would look very familiar, with the exception McKenna Buisman taking the initial corner kick before Cesarone and Romine finished it off.
A brace for @sophia_romine13 25 minutes in! #Gophers lead 2-0 pic.twitter.com/obEGON1aEx— Minnesota Soccer (@GopherSoccer) October 20, 2022
Megan Plaschko made three saves in the second half to keep the clean sheet and record her sixth shutout this season and 19th career shutout. The Gophers win coupled with Illinois’s tie against Wisconsin meant that Minnesota clinched the final spot in the league tournament, and that Sunday’s game against the Illini would be only for pride.
Sunday the Gophers came out looking like they needed a win to clinch their tournament berth, but once again got way too lax late in the game as Illinois scored a pair of goals in the last fifteen minutes of the match to force a 2-2 tie. The Gophers got goals in the first half from Boman and Sadie Harper. Boman bent her corner kick past everyone and into the goal 19 minutes into the match.
She makes it look too easy pic.twitter.com/A1wHAeWVgJ— Minnesota Soccer (@GopherSoccer) October 23, 2022
Harper would score her goal just over two minutes later on some gorgeous passing by the Minnesota offense.
The goal— Minnesota Soccer (@GopherSoccer) October 23, 2022
The assists pic.twitter.com/mZaqZboTDt
Illinois would convert on a penalty kick in the 75th minute, and in what has been an all too typical situation scored the equalizer in the 88th minute when an Illini player was able to spin around several Gophers before unleashing a gorgeous shot.
87' | MAKALA WOODS ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!!!!— Illinois Soccer (@IlliniSoccer) October 23, 2022
WE ARE TIED AT DEMIRJIAN PARK!#Illini 2, Minnesota 2 pic.twitter.com/3Vy7JkhwJV
The tie did not affect the standings in any way as Minnesota finished the regular season with a 4-4-2 record in conference play with 14 points, and a three point lead over Iowa for the final tournament spot.
The Gophers now have a date with the Spartans who are currently ranked #6 in the nation and ran through the Big Ten schedule with a 9-0-1 record this season, their only blemish a scoreless draw with Iowa in September. Minnesota did not face Michigan State this season, but dropped a 2-1 match in their most recent meeting in 2021.
The Gophers and Spartans will face off at 3PM Sunday afternoon from East Lansing in a match that will air live on Big Ten Network. The winner will advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament that will be held at lower.com Field in Columbus the following weekend and face either #4 seed Ohio State or #5 seed Nebraska.