The Gophers’ double serving of Big Ten championships earned them a No. 4 seed in the NCAA women’s soccer tournament, and Minnesota opens against North Carolina State at home.
The first-round game will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in St. Paul — on the same field where the Gophers punched their NCAA ticket.
The Gophers (16-3-3) earned the Big Ten’s automatic NCAA tournament bid when 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 tournament at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. Their only other tournament title was in 1995.
This is the first time the Gophers have won both the regular-season and tournament titles.
“For this team to set their sights on these goals and accomplish them is huge,” coach Stefanie Golan said Sunday. “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 score 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.
The 64-team NCAA tournament bracket was announced on Monday afternoon online. The top 16 teams are seeded, and the Big Ten led all conferences with eight teams in the tournament.