It’s always great when talent stays in the state.
This year, the Gophers picked up two Minnesotans: Arianna Del Moral and Makenzie Langdok. The two midfielders are among the 30 girls from the Minnesota Thunder Academy starting college careers this year. Del Moral attended Totino-Grace High School and was a Ms. Soccer Finalist. Langdok, who also plays defense, attended St. Michael-Albertville High School.
It seems like head coach Stefanie Golan would be particularly pleased with goalkeeper Maddie Nielsen’s signing. Two of the three ‘keepers on the Gophers’ roster this year are graduating seniors (the third has yet to see any time). The six-foot-one Seattleite had a high school record that can be conservatively described as very impressive. It won’t be a surprise if Nielsen starts her freshman year.
Also from Seattle is midfielder and forward Mia Powers. She comes to the U with four years of experience in Washington’s Olympic Development Program, most recently on the girls’ 1999 traveling team.
Alysse Lamond has already joined the team. The California midfielder graduated high school a semester early and started her Minnesota experience in January. She should fit right in on a team with a reputation for academic excellence. We might get to see what she’s capable of on the field in the upcoming spring season.
Another player with a leg up on team culture is midfielder and forward Celina Nummerdor. The Wisconsinite is a former teammate of current freshman Nikki Albrecht. Nummerdor played year-round with North Shore United and has a taste for success — the midfielder won the State Cup four times during her tenure with North Shore.
Finally, midfielder Athena Kuehn from Colorado rounds out the group. Not only does she bring a long list of soccer titles with her, she’s also decorated in track and cross-country. Kuehn’s athletic awards are second to her academic record. She made the honor roll each year in high school and is a member of the National Honor Society.
It’s encouraging to see Golan find talented athletes who are also dedicated students. The culture of her team supports hard work on both the classroom and the field. While her recruiting was able to exceed the number of players graduating, how those incoming players will fit in on the field is unknown. The Gophers’ recruiting class is more midfield heavy in comparison to the number of defenders departing.
Six players are leaving the Gophers this year: goalkeepers Mara Dougherty and Tarah Hobbs, defenders Rashida Beal and Ashley Pafko, midfielder Josee Stiever, and forward Simone Kolander. Of those, only Dougherty and Pafko are available for the spring season. The others graduated early in the hopes of going pro. FC Kansas City drafted Beal in the NWSL Draft in early January.
We should get the chance to see one or more players get significant time in their first years (if the past two years are a good indication). Generally, players aren’t benched just for their youth, and those who are fit and ready can see time right away. Case in point: freshman Albrecht started all 23 games in the 2016 fall season. In turn, she was fourth in the team in minutes. Lamond has the extra chance of team play this spring season, expected to start in March.
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