'U' women advance
MINNEAPOLIS — With the University of Minnesota women's soccer field buried under 10 inches of heavy, wet snow, school officials considered moving Sunday’s second-round NCAA tournament game to Macalester College. But Jarrett Yehlen had 21 hours, a crew of five and a Minnesotan’s resolve to conquer anything winter can dish out.
The facility manager for Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium got the shoveling started at 4 p.m. Saturday. By 1:30 a.m. Sunday, 80,000 cubic feet of snow had been pushed to the perimeter, giving the Gophers a beautiful green pitch — and they took over from there. They barely noticed the 35-degree temperature or the flurries as they upset Texas A&M 2-0, sending them to the women’s soccer Sweet Sixteen for the second time in the past three years.
Tamara Strahota’s goal in the 13th minute and Katie Bethke’s in the 76th highlighted a solid all-around game for the Gophers, who could be playing in the snow again. They will face Georgetown, which defeated No. 1 seed Maryland on Sunday, in a third-round game next weekend that they are likely to host.
"It was a very complete performance,’’ said Gophers coach Mikki Denney Wright. "Texas A&M is the second-highest-scoring offense in the country; to shut them out speaks to our team defending, and we also created a number of dangerous (scoring) chances. This team has played really well all year, and it’s great for them to get this kind of result.’’
Bethke, who wore shorts and short sleeves, said the weather did not bother her team. Texas A&M coach G Guerrieri called it a "foreign environment’’ for the Aggies. Fans built a snowman in the parking lot, and errant shots landed on top of snowbanks behind the goals.
Yehlen's crew used equipment from TCF Bank Stadium to clear the field, but they had to do so carefully to safeguard the natural grass surface at the soccer stadium. They brought each team a heated bench from the football stadium, and the NCAA sent yellow high-visibility balls to be used on a dim, gray day that required the lights for a 1 p.m. start.