WHO: Maryland Terrapins @ Minnesota Golden Gophers
WHAT: Women's soccer B1G Conference game
WHERE: Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
WHEN: Friday, October 24, 2014 at 8:00 pm
WATCH: In person
The play of Maryland's women's soccer team, most notably their well documented struggles to score have put the Terps in a precarious position with regard to postseason play. It seems incongruous to pair this statement with the fact that the Terrapins have racked up a five game unbeaten string in the middle of their Big Ten schedule. However, since four of those games were ties (two 0-0 and two 1-1) the Terps have, for want of four goals, left eight potential standings points on the table.
Where the Terps will finish is anyone's guess. But of all the teams in the crowded sixth through twelfth spots in the Big Ten standings, Maryland may have the most challenging road - and in this case we use the term literally. The Terps, currently in seventh place, have completed their home schedule and play their final three regular season games away from College Park. The stretch starts with sixth place Minnesota then moves on to second place Wisconsin before ending at league leader, Penn State. From this vantage point, standings points look as though they will be difficult to amass.
Gophers on the pitch
Minnesota finished the 2013 season with an overall record of 11-8-2 and were 4-5-2 in Big Ten play. The Golden Gophers lost in the first round of the B1G Tournament but had enough quality about their schedule to return to the heights of the NCAA Tournament after a two year absence. They dropped their first round game to Texas Tech in Lubbock. Midway through her third season at the helm, Minnesota has compiled a record of 30-22-5 under head coach Stephanie Golan.
As the season enters its final quarter, Minnesota sits one spot and two points above Maryland in the Big Ten standings with a record of 5-4-1. They are 8-7-1 overall and 3-3-1 on their home field. In their last outing, the Gophers dropped a 4-1 decision to Wisconsin. Minnesota finishes their season hosting Rutgers, who is tied for second with Wisconsin, and at Northwestern.
Players to watch
Simone Kolander, #2, redshirt sophomore, forward/midfielder. With 18 points, Kolander is the leading scorer for a fairly high powered and well balanced Minnesota attack that is somewhat misleadingly tied for fourth in goals in the conference. She leads the Golden Gophers in both goals with five and assists with eight.
Olivia Schultz, #4, senior, forward. Schultz has tallied eight points on four goals without an assist. Though she is fourth on the team in points behind Josee Stiever (12) and Sydney Squires (10) who also have each scored four goals, Schultz's goal total is noteworthy because the senior has taken only 14 shots.
Unlike most of the B1G foes Maryland has faced, the Terps and the Gophers have played one another. The lone match-up in the series came in the first game of the 2011 season when Minnesota came to College Park and dropped a 1-0 decision to the Terrapins.
Although the Terrapins are playing on the road, where they have won only once, Minnesota is the last team on Maryland's schedule that has a lower RPI than the Terps. Conceding that RPI is an imperfect measure and certainly doesn't win or lose games, it does provide some indication that the game likely presents the last best opportunity for Maryland to pick up a much needed win.
We noted above that Minnesota has a misleadingly "fairly high powered" attack. The Gophers have scored 29 goals this season - an average of 1.81 per game that is good enough to tie them for fourth in the conference. However, 10 of those goals came in the first game of the year against Stetson. In the 15 games since then, Minnesota has scored only 19 goals just two better than the 17 put on the board by Maryland.
Barring a surprising offensive turnaround, the Terps Will Likely have to bank on the fact that they are the better defensive squad. Maryland is the fifth stingiest team in the league giving up 0.93 goals per game while the Gophers sit in the tenth spot at 1.38 goals against. If you give up no goals, you can't lose. On the other hand, if you score no goals, you can't win. Welcome to Maryland's purgatory.