WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - For what sets up as Purdue women's soccer's most significant road trip of the season, the Boilers travel to the Upper Midwest this weekend for games at Wisconsin and Minnesota, two teams just a few points ahead in the Big Ten Tournament chase.
Kickoff Friday evening at the McClimon Memorial Soccer Complex in Madison is set for 8 p.m. (EDT). Purdue visits Minnesota's Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in St. Paul for the second year in a row Sunday, the game getting underway at 2 p.m. (EDT). A pay-per-view video webcast will available for both games via the Big Ten Network's All-Access website. Sunday's game will also be televised on the BTN on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 12:30 p.m.
The Boilermakers (6-9-2, 3-4-1 Big Ten, 10 points) enter the weekend tied for eighth place with Ohio State in the Big Ten standings. Eight teams qualify for the Big Ten Tournament, but since last-place Northwestern receives an automatic bid as the event host, Purdue would be the odd team out if the tourney started this weekend. Wisconsin (8-5-3, 3-2-3 Big Ten, 12 points) and Minnesota (6-8-2, 3-3-2 Big Ten, 11 points) are currently among the top seven, but also need as many standings points as possible over their next three games.
The Badgers and Golden Gophers hold the advantage of playing each of their final three games of the regular season at home. The Boilermakers, meanwhile, are on the road for their final three. Wisconsin and Minnesota also host Indiana this weekend.
Entering Thursday's Iowa-Nebraska and Illinois-Northwestern games, only four points separates the seven teams currently ranked fourth through 10th in the standings. Only league-leading Penn State (21 points), which has won seven straight since losing at Wisconsin in its Big Ten opener, has clinched a Big Ten Tournament berth.
Purdue is riding two opposite streaks against Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Boilermakers are unbeaten (3-0-2) in their last five meetings with the Badgers dating back to 2006. But Purdue has lost its last four games against the Golden Gophers. The Boilermakers will be in search of their first victory against Minnesota in St. Paul since 2005. However, Robbie Stadium was the site of Purdue's run to the 2007 Big Ten Tournament title.
The Boilermakers experienced some highs and lows while closing out their home schedule last week. Purdue was riding high after tying a program record with eight goals, matching the most by any Big Ten team this year, in the rivalry win against Indiana Thursday. But 64 hours later, the Boilers were lamenting a 3-1 senior day loss to Michigan in a game that was scoreless at the half.
Thanks primarily to the eight goals scored against Indiana, Purdue has now scored 11 times in its four games this month after recording only 12 in the nine games in September. Kellie Phillips has led the way as of late, scoring six times over the last five games, including three consecutive contests for the first time in her career.
The blowout of the Hoosiers not only featured Phillips' hat trick, just the third in program history, but also notable accomplishments for Chinyelu Asher and Mollie Kuramoto. Asher posted the first multi-goal game by a Purdue freshman since 2005, and Kuramoto joined Kaitlyn Blacha and Jessica Warren as active Boilers to score their first collegiate goals in Big Ten play.
Katie Leinert is the only active Purdue player that has scored against either opponent this weekend. She accounted for an equalizer in the 2009 draw at Wisconsin and scored late in the loss at Minnesota last year. The Boilermakers and Badgers played to a scoreless draw at the Varsity Soccer Complex is the 2010 Big Ten opener for both teams.
Wisconsin jumped out to an early lead in the Big Ten race by beating Penn State and Michigan State in its first two games. But the Badgers have gone just 1-2-2 since. Wisconsin is one of the league's top defensive teams (15 goals against), as well as most methodical. For example, Penn State and Nebraska combined for nine goals in last weekend's 5-4 PSU win in Happy Valley. Penn State and Nebraska have each been shutout only twice this year, once coming at the hands of the Badgers.
Cara Walls (7 goals) and Laurie Nosbusch (5 goals) have teamed up to account for 12 of UW's 20 goals. Alaska native Alev Kelter has accounted for game-winners with two of her three goals. Goalkeeper Michele Dalton has played every minute this season and ranks third in the Big Ten with a 0.90 goals against average.
Like Purdue, Minnesota experienced some struggles in nonconference play. The Gophers have also underperformed at home, entering the weekend 1-3-1 in the Twin Cities this fall. But UM has compensated by earning 10 of its 11 standings points on the road thanks to wins at Michigan, Iowa and Northwestern as well as a draw at Wisconsin.
Taylor Uhl has accounted for nine of the Gophers' 19 goals, including four game-winners. Four different Minnesota players scored in last year's 4-1 win against the Boilers. But only Shari Eckstrom is back this year.