We have reached that overlap point in the Gopher athletics season where the winter sports are winding down and finishing their seasons and the spring sports are ramping up and getting ready for conference play. Here is a quick recap of some of the Gophers no-revenue sports that are performing at just as high if not a higher level then the bigger revenue sports and deserve some attention:
The Minnesota softball team continues its amazing season this weekend with a series at Illinois. The Gophers are 28-2 and ranked #6 in the country, the highest in school history. The Gophers swept their Big Ten opening series at Nebraska last weekend, winning 18-0 in the Friday opener before scoring three runs in the seventh inning to come back to win 5-4 on Saturday, and winning 8-1 to complete the sweep on Sunday. In the Saturday game The Gophers trailed 4-2 in the seventh inning and were down to their final strike eight times but recorded a double, a walk and back-to-back singles - all with two outs to take the lead and earn the comeback win.
Minnesota leads the Big Ten in batting average (.347), ERA (1.58), on-base percentage (.434) and doubles (55). They are second in scoring averaging 7.07 runs per game which is also good for sixth in the NCAA. Sara Groenewegen is first in the Big Ten and third in the NCAA with a 0.57 ERA. Sydney Dwyer is first in the Big Ten and fourth in the NCAA in RBIs with 42.
The Illini are 23-8 on the season and are also 3-0 in the Big Ten after an opening weekend sweep of Iowa. MInnesota will see a lot of senior pitcher Breanna Wonderly. She threw a no-hitter last Friday against the Hawkeyes and appeared in all three games on the weekend for Illinois producing seven strikeouts in 13.2 innings. On the season Wonderly has 100.1 innings pitched, recorded 44 strikeouts and has a 2.53 ERA
The Gophers will play their first home games of the season Tuesday when they host South Dakota State for a double header.
MInnesota improved to 15-8 on the season after defeating Kansas 5-2 in Lawrence. Reggie Meyer started for the Gophers and allowed just two earned runs and three hits in six innings to pick up his first win of the season. Brian Glowicki picked up his ninth save of the season, good enough for second in the nation. Minnesota’s second game against Kansas was rained out on Wednesday and will not be made up.
Minnesota has now won six games in a row as they jump back into Big Ten play with a three game series at Michigan State this weekend. The Gophers started off the Big Ten season right with a three game sweep of Ohio State in Columbus last weekend. Minnesota will begin the Siebert Field portion of its home schedule next Tuesday when they host North Dakota State.
Gopher Women’s Hockey:
The Gopher Women’s Hockey team will be well represented at the 2017 Women’s World Championships that begin this weekend in Plymouth, Michigan. Two current Gophers will join eight former Gophers at the tournament. Current Gophers Kelly Pannek and Sarah Potomak will play for the US and Canada respectively. Additional Gopher alums playing in the tournament include Lee Stecklein, Hannah Brandt, Amanda Kessel, Gigi Marvin, and Megan Bozak playing for Team USA, Sarah Davids playing for Canada, and Mira Jalouso and Nora Raty playing for Finland.
NHL Network will televise all Team USA games and NHL.com will stream all Team USA games live. Group play kicks off Friday, and Group A consists of Russia, Canada, Finland, and the United States while Group B is made up of the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Sweden, and Germany. Group play continues on Saturday, April 1 and Monday, April 3.
The relegation round, quarterfinals, and semifinals are set for Tuesday, April 4 and Thursday, April 6 with the bronze-medal and gold-medal games capping the tournament on Friday, April 7. The US has won the last three gold medals over Canada.
It has been a busy week for women’s hockey news as the US Women nearly did not play in the tournament after threatening a boycott over compensation and general women’s hockey support issues from USA Hockey. The two sides came to an agreement on Tuesday and the US National team will play beginning on Friday.
Additionally, North Dakota announced due to budget cuts that they would be cutting their women’s hockey team effective immediately. It is very disappointing considering North Dakota’s claim to be a “hockey school”, and the success of the program.
Gopher Men’s Gymnastics
Sophomore Justin Karstadt was named the National Gymnast of the Week after Minnesota's win over Nebraska. Karstadt had a statement all-around performance, scoring an 87.050. He became just the fourth gymnast in the nation to score above an 87.000, and first in the Big Ten Conference this season. He also won individual event titles on both rings and parallel bars.
The #5 Nationally Ranked Gophers will compete in the Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Championship April 7-8 in Champaign, Illinois.
Gopher Women’s Gymnastics
The Gopher Women’s Gymnastics team will take place in the NCAA Regional in Lincoln, Nebraska on Saturday. The Gophers will be joined by #2 LSU, #11 Boise State, #14 Nebraska, #25 Arizona State, and Iowa State. The top two teams from each regional and the top two all-around competitors (from non-advancing teams) and event title winners (if they are not a part of an advancing team, or and all-around qualifier) from each regional will also qualify for the NCAA Championships April 14-15 in St. Louis. The Gophers have qualified for the NCAA Regionals 22 season in a row, and last season advanced to the NCAA Finals for the fourth time in program history. Minnesota finished eighth in the Big Ten Championships this season.
Gopher Track and Field
Both the Men’s and Women’s Gopher Track and Field Teams will compete in the UCLA Legends Invitational this weekend. The Gopher Men are ranked #19 in the nation.
Last weekend Gopher junior distance runner Madeline Strandemo was named the Big Ten Conference Track Athlete of the Week. The Gophers competed in the Raleigh Relays last weekend. Strandemo won the 3,000m steeplechase in a meet-record 10:07.46 before taking third in the 800m in a career-best 2:08.57.
Both Strandemo's 800m and 3,000m steeplechase times were tops in the Big Ten Conference over the weekend. For the 2017 outdoor season, she leads the Big Ten in the steeplechase and ranks second in the 800m. Nationally, her 800m performance was the sixth-fastest among Division I college runners over the weekend and ranks eighth in the NCAA this season. In the 3,000m steeplechase, Strandemo ranks ninth in the country this season.
Gopher Men’s Tennis:
The #33 ranked Gophers will host Illinois on Friday and Northwestern on Sunday at the Baseline Tennis Center. The Gophers are 13-4 on the season including a 2-1 record in Big Ten play. Minnesota defeated Nebraska and Iowa last weekend.