Carlie Wagner set foot on the Williams Arena court last month with a ball in hand. The Gophers were more than 32 minutes away from the beginning of practice and the eager freshman was already on the court. It wasn’t until more than 15 minutes later that another player set foot on the maroon-bordered surface. Throughout Wagner’s life, she has been a motivated athlete. As she progressed throughout high school, she played in three varsity sports, and her dedication to academics and athletics separated her from the rest of her class.
Hannah Granger only drove in 12 runs all of last season. And though it’s still early in the season, she’s already surpassed that number this year, driving in 10 over the weekend to bring her season total to 24. Granger led the charge over the weekend, as the Gophers scored 37 runs and went undefeated. “We knew that we were going to have some pitchers that were going to throw some strikes. We had to attack the zone,” she said.
After weeks of moving in the conference standings, Minnesota finally knows which team it will play in the Big Ten tournament Thursday: Purdue. Purdue’s 58-56 victory against Wisconsin on Wednesday moved the Boilermakers into the next round against the Gophers. Gophers head coach Marlene Stollings attended Wednesday’s contest, “scouting them heavily.” Minnesota has already played the Boilermakers twice, beating them once and losing a close overtime game in the second matchup. And this time around, Minnesota is looking for revenge.
Head coach Jessica Allister will head back to a familiar place this weekend. She’s traveling to her alma mater, but this time she’ll be managing from the opposing dugout. Allister started all four years as a catcher at Stanford and led the Cardinal to two Women’s College World Series. “College was the best four years of my life. I enjoyed every second of it, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” she said.
During halftime and timeouts of each game, junior guard Shayne Mullaney looks down at her shoes. Written in black sharpie on the toe of the left shoe is “PTL” — which stands for “Praise the Lord,” she said. And written in the same spot on the right Nike is “AO1,” which stands for “an audience of one.” Different athletes express themselves in different ways on the court, and the Gophers do the same through their shoes. Mullaney has spent her time on the Gophers expressing herself while facilitating the offense.
Before the season’s start, coaches and media selected senior guard Rachel Banham as the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year. But on Monday, a different Minnesota player took home the player of the year award. Amanda Zahui B. is averaging 18.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and four blocks per game. Zahui B., a redshirt sophomore, helped fill the scoring void and keep the Gophers afloat this season after Banham went down with an injury in December.
Shae Kelley has been vocal all season about her goal of making it to the NCAA tournament. In her collegiate career — which includes stops at three different schools — the senior forward has never made it to the big dance. Throughout the season, head coach Marlene Stollings has said Kelley is playing with a sense of urgency to achieve that goal. During Sunday’s 92-76 loss against Iowa, Kelley’s urgency was on display.
Strong pitching helped the Gophers win all but one of their first 14 games this season. But over the weekend, while in Florida, Minnesota’s pitching assisted in three losses. The Gophers won only one of four games. Last year, then-sophomore Nikki Anderson pitched 42 innings mostly in relief appearances. But over the weekend, the junior pitched less than five innings, giving up 12 runs — 10 earned.
Head coach Marlene Stollings has never shied away from telling her team the importance of a game or record-breaking event. As Minnesota’s regular season wraps up with a final game against Iowa on Sunday, its postseason status hangs in uncertainty. With one victory, the Gophers would tie the school record for most victories in a season. Along with Minnesota, four other teams are vying for three of the top four spots in March’s Big Ten tournament.
As a freshman, Erica Meyer stepped across the plate during her at-bats. So to combat that tendency, assistant coach Jessica Merchant gave her a string to help her technique.
While many Minnesotans had their eyes glued to their ...READ MORE