Minnesota Aurora’s surprise penalty kick taker displays depth in playoff win
Mayu Inokawa — scoreless in 106 regular-season minutes — went to take Aurora’s penalty kick amid a 1-1 tie in a USL W League quarterfinal match against Indy Eleven on Wednesday.
Minnesota Aurora had little trouble scoring goals in its debut regular season in the USL W League, notching 36 in 12 games.
Morgan Turner led with a team-high six goals, Morgan Stone had five, Makenzie Langdok and Maya Hansen each had four. Thirteen total members of the new amateur women’s team had a goal by their name.
But Mayu Inokawa — scoreless in 106 regular-season minutes — went to take Aurora’s penalty kick amid a 1-1 tie in a USL W League quarterfinal match against Indy Eleven on Wednesday.
Inokawa had a slow-motion walkup to the ball and then quickly pinged it into the lower left corner of the net. The Japanese defender via Iowa Western Community College was mobbed by teammates, and Aurora remained undefeated with a 2-1 win. The converted PK propelled Aurora into the USL W League semifinal against McLean (Va.) Soccer at 3 p.m. Sunday at TCO Stadium in Eagan.
Down 1-0 to Indy at halftime Wednesday, Turner’s equalizing goal, a stunning long-range stroke, set the stage for the comeback win. When the PK was awarded, Turner and other,more prolific scorers were on the field during the clutch situation, but coach Nicole Lukic’s assessment of PKs taken during training last week had Inokawa as the best taker on the team.
“Nicole had given us a list of who was confident taking PKs and who was the most consistent, and Mayu had the best PKs,” Turner said. “When she stepped up to take it, we knew it was hers.”
Turner, a Maple Grove native and Wayzata High School alum, had scored a hat trick in the final regular-season game and had scored in four straight games. Yet she showed no hint of jealousy over not being in that spotlight.
“We have a ton of depth, and I think we all have a team-first attitude,” said Turner, who scored 31 goals in 80 games for DePaul, mostly under current Gophers coach Erin Chastain. “It was really awesome to see Mayu play so well and score the PK and have such an important role in that game. We all respect each other and know what we are capable of.”
Turner was part of another smart coaching decision from Lukic. At half, Lukic subbed in Turner as part of a formation switch from a more conservative 4-5-1 to an attacking 3-5-2. The change helped keep a dream season alive.
Turner, who played for local club teams Maplebrook and Minnesota Thunder, said she knew Aurora was a special club when they announced her addition to the roster in February on Twitter and the post was “blowing up.”
“I could tell how much support we had already on social media and how unusual that was,” Turner said. “It’s incredible how much support that we have. … Once I started playing with the team, I realized that again when we had a sold-out first game.”
Aurora’s support has been consistent throughout the spring and summer. Their average announced attendance has been 5,432 across seven games, including four sellouts. Another strong crowd is expected Sunday.
In the other semifinal Sunday, Greenville Liberty will play South Georgia Tormenta at 6 p.m. The USL W League championship game is July 23.
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