For the Gophers to succeed, head coach Jessica Allister said at least two of the three phases of softball — hitting, pitching and defense — must be present. Last weekend, two of those three phases were on display as Minnesota jumped out to a 5-0 start to the season, shining at the plate and in the circle. The Gophers will look to display all three phases this weekend as they head to Florida for a four-game weekend.
Despite the love-struck fan with the “Zahui B. mine” sign hoping for a valentine, there was no lost love between Minnesota and Wisconsin as the Gophers won 93-82. In the first half, referees whistled 15 fouls — 11 against Wisconsin — and head coach Marlene Stollings said the team tried to exploit Wisconsin’s slow defensive rotations.
As the backcourt goes, so do the Gophers. Offensive firepower has fueled Minnesota to many wins, but turnovers have plagued it in losses. In the Gophers’ five conference losses, starting guards Mikayla Bailey, Shayne Mullaney and Carlie Wagner average only about 26 points per game. In the seven conference victories, the trio averages about 34 points per game.
Throughout their 18-6 start to the season, the Gophers have struggled to produce early in games, regardless of their fast pace. Sunday’s 86-79 victory against Michigan State was no different. The Gophers started the contest down by as many as 10 points, but found a way to come back. The victory was a welcome sight for head coach Marlene Stollings and the Gophers after getting blown out in their previous two games.
Last year’s Big Ten Freshman and Pitcher of the Year didn’t miss a beat in the season-opening series of her sophomore season. Gophers ace Sara Groenewegen surrendered just two runs in 16 innings pitched, recording three victories in Minnesota’s five-victory weekend. The Gophers outscored opponents 50-12. Junior Nikki Anderson and freshman Kylie Stober each picked up a victory, too. “It’s an awesome feeling. Especially [being] the first weekend. I have a lot of trust in our other pitchers,” Groenewegen said.
After starting the season on a run for the record books, Minnesota’s lack of energy and execution has brought the team to unfamiliar territory. “We started really hot, and we just had a couple of off games. We just hit a drought. We’re going to get out of it and get back to the way we were,” freshman guard Carlie Wagner said. Since head coach Marlene Stollings took the reins, the Gophers had yet to lose back-to-back games until late January.
Minnesota’s historic season came to an abrupt halt at the hands of No. 1 Oregon last May. The Gophers will begin their 2015 season this weekend No. 15 in the national poll, and their focus is on making it to the Women’s College World Series — something the program has never accomplished before. “I think we’re really proud of what we did last season, but we’re also recognizing that was last season and this is this season,” senior third baseman Kaitlyn Richardson said.
Former head coach Pam Borton’s recruiting woes haunted Minnesota on Sunday during its 70-49 loss against Northwestern. Northwestern sophomore forward and Minnesota native Nia Coffey’s presence was felt the entire game. Coffey, a graduate of Hopkins High School, chose Northwestern over Minnesota and was one of two highly-sought after in-state recruits in her class.
“Fast and furious” has been a phrase to describe Minnesota’s game plan, but unlike the movie, the Gophers’ opponent on Wednesday ran just as fast as they did. During Minnesota’s 75-64 victory, the Penn State Lady Lions matched the Gophers’ speed and aggressiveness, but foul trouble plagued Penn State down the stretch.
Just more than a year ago, Penn State assistant coach Fred Chmiel watched the Lady Lions trample the Gophers 83-53. Chmiel — now an assistant coach at Minnesota — will watch the two teams play again on Wednesday from the opposite sideline. “We all are here right now. We all are Gophers,” redshirt sophomore Amanda Zahui B. said jokingly.
While many Minnesotans had their eyes glued to their ...READ MORE