Rachel Banham dropped 15 points in the first game of her collegiate career nearly three years ago. In her debut performance, the guard led her team in scoring. Fast-forward to Banham’s senior year and not much has changed. Though she likely has the most talented supporting cast since she began college, Banham will still shoulder a major load of the Gophers’ offense.
Four years ago, former Gophers athletics director Joel Maturi made the decision to combine the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams — a move that has paid dividends for the program. “A lot of the best programs in the country are combined, and for us, it’s just a utilization of more resources and having a chance really to streamline our organization,” head men’s and women’s coach Kelly Kremer said. “It’s a decision that we’re really happy … was made back then.”
The Gophers men’s golf team posted its lowest team score of the season Monday and Tuesday, finishing the three-round Alister MacKenzie Invitational at 8-over par as a team. The Gophers finished eighth in the tournament, led by sophomore Jose Mendez, who tied for 15th. Mendez, who has led the Gophers in each tournament so far this season, finished at even par, posting rounds of 68, 71 and 74. Junior Jon DuToit tied for 20th.
After a trip to the Chicago suburbs, the women’s golf team returned home Tuesday. On Friday, the team will hit the road again, and by Sunday, it’ll be playing in its second tournament in less than a week. The turnaround is the fastest one the team will encounter all season. The Gophers will compete in the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational in Texas from Sunday to Tuesday.
The Gophers faced the toughest test of their young season this week in a strong field with quick greens and windy conditions. Despite freshman Celia Kuenster tying for sixth overall, the team finished 10th at the Windy City Collegiate Classic. “This is probably the toughest field that we’ll play all year,” head coach Michele Redman said. The Gophers finished 40-over par as a team, and they had trouble with their putting throughout the tournament.
The Gophers have historically run away from the competition at the SDSU Classic — literally. It wasn’t easy on Saturday, but Minnesota still came out with another team victory. The Gophers headed into the meet planning on asserting themselves early, and they did. But this time, they weren’t alone.
In her first college tournament, freshman Sabrine Garrison turned in a top-five finish. Fellow freshman teammate Celia Kuenster tied for sixth in the competition. Those two, along with Heather Ciskowski, make up a talented and highly touted freshman class, bringing excitement to the golf program. “After waiting three years to get them, yes, it’s exciting to have three — almost four — years with them,” head coach Michele Redman said. But Redman’s not the only one who’s excited.
Redshirt junior Kaila Urick didn’t crack the ranks of the Gophers’ top seven runners last year. But after a breakout track season last spring, Urick has positioned herself as one of the top runners on the cross country team. “All last year, she just got better every season,” head coach Sarah Hopkins said, noting that Urick improved from the cross country to indoor track to outdoor track seasons. “I really think that gave her confidence and momentum going into the fall.”
As the Gophers prepare to begin their season, they’ll do so as the top team in the country. Minnesota is the preseason coaches’ favorite to win the Big Ten and enters the season as the No. 1 team in both national polls. The Gophers will host Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in an exhibition game this weekend before beginning their season on Oct. 10. MINNESOTA 2013-14 record: 28-7-6 Conference finish: 1st
Minnesota struggled last weekend at the Windon Memorial, turning in a 13th-place finish. Those problems persisted this weekend at the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate, as the Gophers finished second-to-last in the field. “Unfortunately, we made some of the same mistakes that we made in Chicago [at the Windon Memorial] as a team,” head coach John Carlson said. “We just have to continue to get better.” Carlson said the team’s ball striking has been inconsistent all season.