Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.
Gophers coach Stefanie Golan started her four seniors on Senior Night at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in St. Paul.
Those four are Katie Thyken, Olivia Schultz, Taylor Wodnick and Becca Roberts.
But the visitors, Iowa, spoiled the festivities.
The Hawkeyes won 1-0, getting a goal from an unusual source, or head, to be more specific.
Sophomore Amanda Lulek, all 5-7 of her, scored on a header in the 33rd minute following a corner kick. It was her first goal of the season, no wait, it was her first goal of her college career. And it came on her only shot of the game, and first of the year in three matches.
Want more hard-to-believe stuff. Lulek scored under a minute after she went into the game. She entered at 31:38 and scored at 32:31.
"Heartbreaking loss as we played great," Golan tweeted. "1st time we've been shut out all year but the soccer looked great."
The Gophers had a 22-9 advantage in shots and a 5-1 edge in shots on goal.
Trouble was, they went up against a hot, hot goalie. Junior Hannah Clark of Iowa came into the game with three consecutive shutouts. Now it's four in a row. She had not allowed a goal in 363 minutes and 13 seconds.
Her play has helped Iowa start 8-1 overall, 3-0 in the Big Ten. That's the best conference start for Iowa ever.
This was only the fourth win for Iowa over the Gophers and their first in the Land of 10,000 Lakes since 2007.
Clark made five saves. Rachel McCloskey had the Gophers last shot, at 89:31, but it went wide.
Gophers goalie Tarah Hobbs, the returning Big Ten goalkeeper of the year, made only one save, in the 88th minute.
The loss drops the Gophers to 4-5 overall, 1-2 in the Big Ten. After scoring 10 goals against Stetson in their season opener, Minnesota only has nine goals in the last eight games.
Thyken led the Gophers in shots against Iowa with six, Haley Helverson led in shots on goal with two. And the Gophers had an 8-1 edge in corner kicks, but Iowa scored on the only one the Hawkeyes had.
Iowa also had one of the best scoring chances in the game very early, At 8:52, Cloe Lacasse hit a post.
Coach Hugh McCutcheon had to be pleased Friday with his team's second match.
The Gophers dispatched Toledo 25-13, 25-18, 25-18. And four players had 10 or more kills: Sarah Wilhite had 14, Daly Santana 12, and Hannah Tapp and Adrianna Nora 10 apiece.
Expecting the biggest crowd of the day, no doubt, for the late match in the Rocket Invite, the Rockets unveiled last season’s 2013 Mid-American Conference championship banner before play began.
It didn't help.
The Gophers hit .402 -- remember .300 is good in volleyball as it is in baseball -- for an attack percentage, and held Toledo to .168.
“Minnesota is a great team,” Rockets coach Greg Smith said. “They stay really consistent and force you into doing things you’re not used to doing.
"We hung with them and had some good runs, but they’re such a good team that it puts a lot of pressure on us.”
And four Gophers were pounding away for big points. ... Paige Tapp and Nora blocked a spike for set point in Game 1. Paige Tapp's kill ended Game 2 and Laura Calvori's ace ended the match.
Minnesota, now 9-1, beat Duquesne earlier, 25-17, 25-17, 25-19.
Wilhite had 26 kills in the two matches and hit .355. Santana had 19 kills total.
Next up is IPFW, short for Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne. The Mastodons beat Duquesne on Friday night to end a six-match winning streak.
The Gophers should beat 'em to win the tournament.
Wanna watch some high level tennis? Indoors or outdoors?
The place to go is the U's main campus. The Gophers, under third-year coach Chuck Merzbacher, will host a 13-team tournament.
Meaning all the available courts inside and outside will be used at times for matches.
Who's there? Five Iowa schools: Drake, Iowa, Iowa St., and Northern Iowa. Two from Wisconsin, the Badgers and UW-Milwaukee. Three from the Dakotas: North Dakota, South Dakota and South Dakota St.
And a couple out of the region: Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois and Kentucky.
Doubles matches will be played first each day, starting at 9 a.m.
Friday there will be five eight-team doubles draws and each will play down to a winning team. Saturday and Sunday new doubles draws will do the same thing.
In singles, there will be five 16-player draws and one eight-player draw. One round of singles will be played Friday, two Saturday and one Sunday.
OK, it's kinda complex. But I'm sure there will be draws posted somewhere so fans who stop by can figure out who is playing whom, when and where.
Merzbacher seems to have the Gophers going in the right direction in terms of becoming a winner. His first team was 10-5 overall, 3-8 in the Big Ten. Last year the Gophers improved to 17-9 and 6-5. That's the most overall wins and Big Ten wins since 2003.
The Gophers return seven players, including four who had over 20 wins. They are:
* Julia Courter, 25-16 in singles, 24-10 in doubles ... She was on a doubles team that took third in the top flight of this tournament a year ago. ... Junior from Lawrenceville, Ga.
* Aria Lambert, 24-14 in singles ... Senior from Deephaven. ... Only Minnesotan on Gophers roster.
* Jessika Mozia ... 23-17 in singles ... She won her flight in this tournament a year ago. ... Junior from Littleton, Colo.
* Tereza Brichacova ... 20-16 in singles, 16-18 in doubles ... She played No. 1 singles in 22 spring matches. ... She won her flight in this tournament a year ago. ... Senior from Prague, Czech Republic.
Newcomers are two freshmen, Caroline Ryba from Glenville, Ill., and Mehvish Safdar from Mason, Ohio, and junior Alexandra Bergman, a transfer from UConn.
On the other 12 teams, there are seven Minnesotans returning home. Here is the short list:
Drake: Summer Brills, North Oaks
Iowa State: Natalie Phippen, Lakeland
North Dakota: Aliza Deming, Afton; Lexi Larson, Long Prairie; Faith Lee, Andover, Lacey Sprinkel, Minneapolis
South Dakota St.: Tacy Haws-Lay, Minneapolis
What's eye-opening is the number of international players in college tennis. There are 51 in this tournament, from 24 different countries.
Countries with more than one player in the Minnesota Invitational:
England 6; Spain 5; Canada 4 (all from Ontario); Brazil, Columbia, Czech Republic, Germany 3.
Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Indonesia, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine 2.
Countries with one:
Croatia, El Salvador, France, India, Isreal, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.
Kentucky is probably the team to watch in this tournament. The Wildcats made the NCAA tournament last spring for the first time since 2009 and reached the Round of 16 before falling 4-1 to Virginia.
They are led by jr. Nadia Ravita, of Jakarta, Indonesia. She lost in the first round of the singles draw in the NCAA tournament. This fall she is ranked No. 41 in singles in the ITA preseason rankings and No. 12 in doubles with partner Aldila Sutjiadi, also from Jakarta.
The Wildcats finished 17-12 overall and 6-9 in the SEC last season.
Sophomore Wally Ellenson of the Gophers can jump.
And on Friday he cleared 6-9-1/2 on the first try at the NCAA West Prelims in Fayetteville, Ark. Then he cleared 6-11-1/2 on the first try and 7-1, too.
Then he stopped. So did everyone who made that height. All of them made the NCAA meet June 11-14 in Eugene, Ore.
The top 12 high jumpers advanced, and 11 cleared 7-1.
Ellenson was one of six who did it without a miss up to that height, so he tied for first.
He'll, obviously, have to go higher at Eugene if he wants to duplicate what he did a year ago, an All-America showing with a top eight finish.
Teammate Jon Lehman, a senior captain on the U track and field team also is headed West. He finished fourth in the hammer throw, heaving the hammer 214 feet on his fifth toss. Five of his six throws were over 200 feet, so he was pretty consistent.
This will be his first NCAA meet.
Zach Siegmeier, another senior, tied for sixth in the pole vault on Thursday, earning a spot in the national meet as well.
“We’re certainly happy for Jon and Wally. They’ve both had great seasons for us, and we’re excited about their prospects next month in Eugene,” said Steve Plasencia, director of the Gophers men's track and field program.
“We have one more day to move some guys on, and hopefully we’ll continue the success we’ve had over the first two days of competition.”
Gophers men will be competing in three events on Saturday: discus, 1,500 and 4x400.
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