The team didn’t just look fit. It also seemed to play with a bit of a swagger across the board. Players were taking their defenders on one-on-one. Defenders were making big runs into the final third. The only real weakness seemed to be making the final pass once the ball got there. And, with only six of the team’s 21 shots landing on frame, the team also had some struggles finishing.
“We graduated some big personalities from last year. So over the course of the spring, this group was really able to establish an identity and start to get a little bit more freedom themselves. I think you see that translating over into confidence on the field.”
Molly Fiedler and Athena Kuehn each recorded goals, but all six attacking players, and even some defenders, were making dangerous runs all night. In the end, a packed Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium walked away with a taste for what should be an exciting, attacking brand of soccer.
The Gophers open the regular season on Friday, Aug. 18 at Washington State and return to St. Paul for their home opener against North Dakota State on Monday, Aug. 21.
Those big personalities Golan mentioned? Three of them signed professional contracts in just the last week. As Minnesota continues to establish itself as one of the premier women’s soccer programs in the Big Ten and across the country, Golan sees the success of Gopher alums as a big sign of progress.
“It’s huge. It puts us in a different tier with players and recruits. Not only can a player say ‘I hope to be able to go pro, now I see I actually can.’ For recruits to be able to see that we’re establishing some consistency in the style of play, the level of play and the expectation is we’re in the NCCA Tournament. To have that, plus the added thought of ‘I could go here and get an opportunity beyond here.’ I think it’s great.”
Kolander, a Lakeville, Minn. native, goes down as one of the top forwards in Minnesota history, winning the Big Ten Forward of the Year award in both 2015 and 2016.
AC Sparta plays in the Czech First Division, which is a league with eight teams. The team plays at Letná Stadium, which holds 6,375 and is located in Zlín, Czech Republic. AC Sparta has won the Czech Women’s Cup eight of the first 10 years of its existence.
“I am extremely excited to continue my soccer career with AC Sparta,” said Kolander. “After four amazing years with the Gopher soccer program, I wasn’t ready to stop playing and I am happy to be able to continue playing the beautiful city of Prague and with AC Sparta. Of course I couldn’t do this without my parents, all of the coaches I’ve had over the years, and the staff and teammates I had at the University of Minnesota.”
Hobbs left Minnesota as one of best goalies in Gopher history. She was the first Minnesota player to receive the Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year award, which she did as a freshman, and was named All-Big Ten twice in her career.
Hobbs will join former Gopher Haley Helverson, who signed with Östersunds last year. Östersunds DFF plays at Jämtkraft Arena in Östersund, Sweden. Its current capacity is 8,466 and it has been open since July 13, 2007.
“I am super excited to continue my soccer career after Minnesota. I feel like Östersunds is a good place to start my professional career, and can’t wait to see what opportunities I will have here. I feel Minnesota, my coaches, teammates, and support staff fully prepared me to pursue this dream, and I would not be here without them,” said Hobbs. “During out two-week break in this season, I have been training with the men’s team here. I am looking forward to experiencing the world, culture, people and pursing a lifelong dream of playing soccer at the highest level.”
The Cedarburg, Wis. native joins Östersunds DFF after playing with GSI Pride, a team in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL). Stiever made an impact with the Gophers from the moment she stepped onto campus. She played in 86 games, netted 21 goals, recorded 20 assists and 62 points. Her 20 assists put her tied for the eighth-most in program history. She also came up big in the clutch, netting nine game-winning goals in her four years with Minnesota, good enough for ninth most in program history.
“I want to thank God for opening doors for me, and my parents for encouraging me to walk through them. Also, thank you to my Gopher soccer family for always supporting me and to FC Kansas City for the opportunities they have given me,” Stiever said. “I have a few friends, including Tarah, with Östersunds DFF right now who have said great things about the club so when the opportunity came up, it was an easy decision to say yes. I’m so grateful to be living out my dreams every day and I can’t wait to see where this sport takes me!”
Gopher Sports News Service contributed to this report.
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Tags: Gopher Soccer