Nov. 13, 2009

Courtesy UMD Athletics

Denver, Colo. - In rather convincing fashion, the University of Minnesota Duluth (17-2-2 overall) soccer squad trumped Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference rival Minnesota State University, Mankato (13-5-2) 2-0 on Friday afternoon, in the teams' first round match of the NCAA II playoffs in Denver, Colo.

The win for the Bulldogs at Auraria Field, on the campus of Central Regional host Metro State College, is the first postseason victory in the program's storied 16-year history. It also ties a school record for most wins in a season (17), now sharing that distinction with the 2000 team (the only other UMD squad to play in the NCAA II playoffs).

UMD advances to the NCAA II second round to play those same Roadrunners, with that match tentatively scheduled for a 2:00 p.m., Central time zone start time this Sunday (Nov. 15). Denver is currently under a Winter Storm Watch, with about 6-12 inches of snow expected to fall before Sunday's contest, presenting the very real possibility of a postponement of the game until Monday.

Senior co-captain Kelly Duchene delivered the initial strike, and eventual game-winner, in the 26th minute - representing the 18th time this season that the Bulldogs have potted the first goal of a game (they are 17-0-1 in those matches). Junior forward Becky Anderson dropped a pass back from the top left side of the goalie box for Duchene, who saw an opening and lined a shot from around 18 yards out. Mavericks goalie Sheila Reynolds couldn't get to the top left corner of the goal in time before the midfielder's second goal of the season hit the twine.

UMD, who extends its season-long unbeaten streak to 12 games, was not content to enter the locker room up by just one goal, and sophomore defender Reegan Lloyd made sure it would be a 2-0 advantage when the halftime horn sounded. After Minnesota State defender Emily Petrovich was cautioned with a yellow card for a hard leg tackle at 43:04, Lloyd lined up to take the free kick from about 30 yards off the end line. The Woodbury, Minn., native delivered a low bullet that split the three-person defensive wall in front, before dipping down and settling into the left side of the Maverick net.  The goal was the third on the year for the NSIC All-Conference First Teamer.

MSU turned up the pressure on offense to start the second half, coming out with their ears pinned back. The UMD defense survived the wave, allowing a couple of opportunities but nothing representing a true scoring chance. That was the script that the Bulldogs followed the rest of the way - bend but don't break - to capture their second win against MSU this season (UMD had only five all-time victories against the Mavericks coming into the 2009 season).

"This win sets a new standard for our team," Duchene said after the game. "We deserved it, we worked hard to earn it and we know we belong in this situation."

The difference in the game, stats-wise, was the Bulldogs' 7-3 advantage in shots on goal. MSU was not without solid scoring opportunities, however. The Mavericks, at times moved the ball with ease up the field, but never seemed to be able to get a decent shot directed towards UMD junior netminder Hannah Bengtson - a tribute to the strong play on the day of the Bulldog backliners.

Bengtson continued her strong second season with the Maroon and Gold, notching her 12th shutout of the of 2009. The Lino Lakes, Minn., native all three of the saves that were directed towards net, facing a total of 11 MSU shots. Reynolds ended the game having made five saves in facing 10 total UMD shots.

Based upon three near scores for the Bulldogs, the final score was much closer than it could have been.  Within the first 15 minutes, junior defender Maria Leider couldn't maintain possession of the ball immediately in front of the MSU net, after parlaying a cross with her chest.  Before tjhat, Lloyd delivered a boot that Reynolds almost mishandled and allowed to cross the goal line.  Junior forward nearly delivered a third goal at the 80:52 mark, heading a shot that was somehow deflected wide by the MSU netminder.

For more information regarding the status of Sunday's game, please check back to periodically.  NCAA officials and the two coaches will likely make a decision early Sunday morning.