Emily Heslin’s goal with 5:22 remaining — her first of the season — lifted the Gophers to a 2-1 victory over Rutgers on Sunday in the championship game of the Big Ten women’s soccer tournament at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in St. Paul.
This is the first time in program history that the Gophers have won the conference regular-season title and the tournament title in the same season. Their only other tournament title was in 1995.
The Gophers (16-3-3) earned the Big Ten’s automatic NCAA tournament bid. They will play a first-round game sometime next weekend and very likely at home. The 64-team bracket is announced on Monday.
“For this team to set their sights on these goals, and accomplish them is huge,” coach Stefanie Golan said. “We definitely will enjoy this win. I’m proud of the heart shown by this team.”
Heslin’s goal came off a rising blast from just outside the top of the penalty area only 47 seconds after seventh-seeded Rutgers (11-4-6) had tied the match on Chantelle Swaby’s goal in the 84th minute.
“I’ve been wanting a goal from the top of the box this whole season,” said Heslin, a sophomore midfielder from Hill-Murray High School. “It finally happened. I didn’t want to go into overtime. … I saw the opportunity and was able to hit the ball right past the goalkeeper.”
The top-seeded Gophers opened the scoring in the 27th minute on a goal by Sydney Squires, who was named the tournament’s top offensive player.
The Gophers led Rutgers in shots (15-10) and shots on goal (8-4). Goalkeeper Tarah Hobbs had three saves.
Tori Burnett of the Gophers was named the tournament’s top defensive player.