The start of every season brings fresh hope to every program, no matter the level or the sport. Perhaps a fan of a somewhat recent Tom Cruise sci-fi films, 4th year Gopher Head Coach Stefanie Golan summed that up nicely in her July 14th tweet looking forward to the preseason meetings (which if I can do math correctly started yesterday, August 4th) with the hashtag, #WakeUpBeAwesomeRepeat. Her players have listened to the first two parts of that already, defeating Drake University 8-0 this past weekend in a friendly (exhibition match) at home (Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium) in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Hopefully the will also listen to the "repeat" part.For the Gophersports.com article on that match, click here.
Recent History - The Golan Era
When it comes to regular season wins, the Golan-era has been consistent with the Gophers delivering 11 of them in each of the last 3 seasons. While last year the Gophers had one more loss than they had the year before, they did have a winning Big Ten record, good for 6th in the Big Ten and added a 12th victory by winning their first game of the Big Ten Tournament (against #25 Michigan). The Gophers finished the season ranked as the #52 team (out of 332)
You can see the full stats from last year by clicking on this link.
The Gophers will have an experienced but well balanced squad this year with 6 seniors (1 red-shirt),6 juniors, 7 sophomores, and 7 freshmen. The Gophers return 3 of their 5 top scorers from last season in #11 Josee Stiever (Jr., 6 goals, 5 assists, played for Dayton Dutch Lions in W-League), #2 Simone Kolander (Jr., 5 goals, 8 assists, played for Seattle Sounders in W-League), and #7 Sydney Squires (So., 4 goals, 2 assists), but lose Livia Schultz and Taylor Wodnick who each scored 4 goals last year. On defense the Gophers return star goalkeeper #00 Tarah Hobbs (Jr., FC Indiana in W-League) who was the Big Ten goalkeeper of the year as a freshman (122 saves) and had 96 saves last year including 8 shutouts. Hobbs was named College Sports Madness national Defensive Player of the Week (9/2/2014) last year. Also returning on defense is Haley Helverson (Sr.) who started all 21 games last year for a defense that held the #7 Penn State team to just one goal. Helverson for the second year in a row will be a team captain this year, being joined by Kolander. For the full interactive roster, click here.
This is a smart bunch of players as the squad had a Gopher high 7 Big 10 Distinguished Scholars award winners last season.
Based solely on last years end of year NCAA rankings, the Gophers would appear to have a somewhat moderately difficult schedule. In the non-conference portion of the schedule two very good teams in Kansas (#37, Gophers at home) and Texas Tech (#14 at Texas Tech). In the Big Ten portion of the schedule we have to play three very tough road games in Penn State #6, Wisconsin (#9) and Rutgers (#30) as well as a potential difficult game in Iowa (#64) At home we have it pretty easy outside of a potential problem against the #51 Michigan team. For the interactive schedule with results of the game, click here.
Outlook & Hope
Well, last years results aren't the only thing you should look at. According to the Gophersports.com article linked to in the tweet above, here are the Big Ten preseason rankings (Coaches Poll):
- Penn State
- Ohio State
- Michigan State
Notice something? We have to play all 5 teams above us. Luckily we do miss the next 2 hardest teams (Maryland and Northwestern) and get to play the bottom 6 teams in the conference. Want reason for hope? Last year we loss close games to Penn State (vs. 1-0) and Michigan (@ 2-1) and beat Rutgers (vs. 2-0) and Illinois (@ 2-1). We also beat Michigan in the Big 10 Tournament (1-0). Lets not mention Wisconsin (loss at home 4-1 and in Big 10 Tournament 1-0).
To be honest, this season could either be a step up or even a slight step down due to the schedule. If the breaks go their way, and I always hope they will, expect Minnesota to finish the season in the top #5 of the Big Ten and the top 40 nationally. #IBELIEVEWEWILLWIN. Go out and support this team, they are an athletic and intelligent squad of women who do the state proud.
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