McCutcheon Camps Back for 2015

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Gopher Volleyball Coach and two-time Olympic head coach Hugh McCutcheon is holding his annual volleyball camps, July 7-18, at the University of Minnesota Fieldhouse. Both overnight and day camps are available through the camp sessions.

A variety of eight camps will be held, starting with the All Positions College Prep Camp, July 7-10. This camp is established for girls entering eighth-12th grade and is designed for experienced athletes who aspire to play volleyball collegiately. In its second year of existence is the Boys All Skills Camp, also July 7-10. The Boys camp ranges from sixth-12 grade and is designed for the male volleyball athlete who wants a comprehensive and competitive volleyball camp experience.

Events continue the next week with setting, attack and libero camps (July 11-12), followed by two all skills camps (July 13-14and 15-16). McCutcheon Volleyball Camps will also host a kindergarten-eighth grade Volley School (July 11-12 and July 15-16). The Get Set Team Camp and Coaches Clinic (July 17-18) is geared towards Varsity and Junior Varsity Teams as they prepare for their high school training competition season.

Last year, a total of 670 campers visited the University of Minnesota Field House. With up to 14 sport courts and net systems, the Field House accommodates all campers in one location. Overnight campers in our College Prep Camp and our Team Camps will stay in Territorial Residence Hall on the Super Block in the heart of the U of M campus.


The 2015 Minnesota Softball season is approaching. The Gophers are coming off their best season in program history, a season that included the school's first Big Ten Tournament title since 1999 and its first-ever NCAA super regional appearance. This year's team will look to build on last year's success. The 42nd Gopher softball team will feature 22 student-athletes and each one has her own story. As the team's Feb. 6 opener against Washington gets closer, each player will look back on her journey to wearing the Maroon and Gold.



Coach Allister on No. 7, Sam Macken: "After finishing last season in the outfield, Sam will move into the infield this spring. Sam is a tough, gritty competitor that will likely find a home near the top of the order."
My softball journey started after attending 14U nationals as a 12 year-old. While driving home to Rochester with my parents, I told them that I didn't want softball to be over. I had noticed so many good athletes and teams at nationals and I wanted to challenge myself further. The next day, we drove to the Twin Cities and I tried out and made a fall club team. I realized that my dream was to play Division I softball. Like so many other young girls, I watched the Women's College World Series and I wanted to be on one of those teams. However, I quickly realized most of those teams are not interested in a small town girl from Minnesota.

Over the next four years, I played an amazing 120 games per year. This was because I played a spring high school season, I played for my club team and I also continued to play with my high school community team. I played softball every day of the week and I loved every minute of it.

During this busy, exciting and fun time, I was fortunate enough to meet and play with and against Gopher players. That involvement, discussion and experience made me recognize how much I wanted to stay in Minnesota and play for the Gophers.

The first meeting with Coach Allister was in Huntington Beach, California my junior summer. After the final tournament of the season, Coach Allister talked to me and wanted my family and I to meet with her the following week. The meeting with Coach made a big impact and impression on me. I quickly made the best decision of my life and committed to the U.

Among other factors besides the coaching staff, the U had so much of what I wanted. The location was paramount. I was prepared to live a distance from home, but being only 90 minutes was icing on the cake. The U's academics, size, environment and facilities were great! And I couldn't wait to be apart of it all!

Coming in to the softball program my freshman year was intimidating because it is so different from any other team I was a part of, but it became an easy transition for me. There was strong leadership from the upperclassmen and everyone was welcoming and approachable. This team is truly my family away from home and having friends and teammates like the ones on this team makes everything so much more enjoyable and exciting. In addition, what is so impressive about this program is how hard all the players and coaches work to achieve one common goal--the WCWS.

Last year was absolutely crazy and was a dream come true. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be part of a Big Ten Tournament Championship! In addition, winning regionals at home and advancing to super regionals for the first time in program history was unforgettable. The 2013-14 season was a reward for all the hard work that we had put in and it reinforced in us the incentive to work even harder together.

After the success of the 2013-14 season, I continued with one last vigorous summer schedule because once again I wanted more, which ended only weeks before returning for fall ball with my Gopher teammates. Undoubtedly, every one player on this team feels as I do--we all saw what we are capable of and we want to make it to the next stage, Oklahoma City.

The 2015 Minnesota Softball season is approaching. The Gophers are coming off their best season in program history, a season that included the school's first Big Ten Tournament title since 1999 and its first-ever NCAA super regional appearance. This year's team will look to build on last year's success. The 42nd Gopher softball team will feature 22 student-athletes and each one has her own story. As the team's Feb. 6 opener against Washington gets closer, each player will look back on her journey to wearing the Maroon and Gold.



Coach Allister on No. 8, Kayla Wenner: "Kayla is a true lefty with tremendous power and speed at the plate and great range in the outfield. Kayla will compete for time in the middle of our lineup and in the outfield this spring."
Growing up, I thought that DI athletics was a far-off thing that athletes only from big high schools who stuck to one sport their whole life achieved. Living in a town of barely 1,000 people (1,098 to be exact) with a graduating class of 25 including myself, there weren't many athletes that ended up playing college sports. My dad, Mike, graduated from Nicollet Public High School in 1984 and he can only recall one other Nicollet grad playing a DI sport. I never anticipated an opportunity to play softball at the DI level to come my way.

I played multiple sports growing up and I ended up sticking with volleyball, basketball and softball all throughout high school. I had played summer leagues in all of these sports, but we mainly played local teams, which were small towns just like ours. I had no idea that there were other leagues to play in, but luckily my mom did.

One of my mom's co-workers had a daughter that played on the Minnesota Sting in the Twin Cities and when my mom brought the idea up I remember thinking there was no way I was going to be able to compete with those girls. I wasn't dead set on making the team, but my mom and I talked about it and I figured I might as well try--if I didn't make it, no big deal.

There was a tryout during the spring of my eighth-grade year for the newest Sting team, Sting '94, and I showed up, so nervous, with only my beaten up glove that I swear I'd had forever. It was really intimidating, to be honest, to be around a bunch of girls I didn't know, who all had their own helmets, bats and bags. It makes me laugh now, but I remember during the hitting session, I had to ask a girl I didn't know if I could borrow her helmet and bat. Also during the hitting session, I had to do some bunting. Up until that point in my softball career, I had NEVER bunted. Ever. I actually had to be taught how to bunt during the bunting part of the tryout. It's ironic that I didn't know how to bunt then, but I drag bunt now in college.

I left the tryout thinking I probably didn't make it, but I was happy I at least tried. Eventually we got the call from the coach that I had made it, and little did I know the journey that I was about to take.

I played travel softball every summer, and ended up going from the Sting, to the Blizzard, eventually to the Irish. I was very lucky I got to play with a lot of great people and one of my best friends during those summers.

Eventually came the time when recruiting came into play. I really didn't pay much attention to it until a couple coaches talked to me about it and whether that was something I wanted. I had no idea what I wanted in a college or whether I wanted to play collegiately, so I didn't know where to start. I had a couple travel coaches that mentioned to me that the U of M had gotten a new coaching staff and that they would put in a good word for me to them.

Eventually, that turned into me seeing Coach Allister, Coach Merchant and Coach Ritter at my games and receiving letters in the mail (side note: I think my mom still as all of them). I came on a visit to campus and absolutely loved it. When they offered me a spot, there was no way I could turn it down. I actually committed at a Dairy Queen because who doesn't like ice cream, right?

The change from high school to college was a big one. I was excited and nervous because I had the same group of friends since I was young and now I was in a completely different place and I didn't know anyone. It was a little overwhelming.

But, the relationships with your teammates grow so fast once you start fall practice. School was a big adjustment, as well, as I think it is for most college freshman. You have more free time but your professors expect more from you as a student, so learning to juggle softball along with school was something new to me as well. There's a lot expected of you as a student-athlete at Minnesota--not only getting good grades, being a good student, and working hard during practice, but being a great person as well. I think our team does a great job at upholding that expectation.

I am still so thankful that I was given this opportunity to play at this level because there once was a time where that was a very distant dream to me. I feel very humbled and fortunate to be one of the few chosen by such a great coaching staff. I couldn't imagine playing with any other girls than the teammates I have now or being at any different school. I got so lucky to be around not only amazing athletes, but some of the greatest people I've ever met. People don't see the hard work that we all put into being the best we can every day. Whether it's at practice, lifting/conditioning or in school, I think as a whole, we all push ourselves in every aspect--and it shows every season.

Winning the Big Ten Championship last year was huge for us. It proved that everything that we had done from the previous summer, fall and winter, all the practices, lifting and hard work had really paid off. It was a great experience that I wouldn't have wanted to share with any other group of people.

I'm so proud of that team and what we accomplished that season, but this is a whole new ball game. We are starting a new season, our record is 0-0, what happened last year has no bearing on what happens this season and we are more than ready. We aren't done yet.

The 2015 Minnesota Softball season is approaching. The Gophers are coming off their best season in program history, a season that included the school's first Big Ten Tournament title since 1999 and its first-ever NCAA super regional appearance. This year's team will look to build on last year's success. The 42nd Gopher softball team will feature 22 student-athletes and each one has her own story. As the team's Feb. 6 opener against Washington gets closer, each player will look back on her journey to wearing the Maroon and Gold.



Coach Allister on No. 9, Kylie Stober: "Kylie is a great addition to our talented pitching rotation. A focused worker and a fierce competitor, fans will enjoy watching Kylie pitch this spring."
Leading up to my freshman year of high school, I wasn't sure if I really wanted to pursue a college softball career. My uncertainty came from growing up with people always telling me that I wasn't good enough or that I didn't have the potential to play at the Division I level--and I believed them.

However, once I got to high school, I had a change of heart. I decided I wanted to pursue a Division I school. Unfortunately, I still wasn't talented enough to be recruited by a lot of Division I schools and I wasn't a well-known player at this time because I wasn't on high-level club teams. I started to work harder on my pitching and hitting in hopes that a higher-level team would want me to play for them, and luckily the Minnesota Renegades wanted me.

The Renegades program really developed me as a player and got my name out there to different schools to recruit me, but I knew that the University of Minnesota was the school I wanted to pursue because of the coaching staff and how they were turning the program around. Also, being a Minnesota kid, I really wanted to represent my state by playing here at the U.

My unofficial visit was just another thing that really sold me on the U. I fell in love with the campus and knew I had to get here no matter what. I was hoping that the coaches would give me a shot and when they invited me to come watch a practice, I didn't know what to expect. After the practice, the coaches sat down with me and offered me a scholarship and I committed on the spot. Knowing I was verbally committed to play at the University of Minnesota was the best feeling in the world.

The beginning of my softball career was shaky--I didn't play on high level club teams and nobody really saw the potential in me. I always worked hard and tried my best, but I always seemed to be overlooked. Once I played for the Renegades, I started to get recognized more by other players and teams. My confidence in myself improved, as did my skills as a player.

I pitched on the varsity softball team my sophomore through senior years. I started almost every game and made a lot of great memories. My last year at Lakeville South, we were fortunate enough to make the state tournament, and in three tough games, we ended as state champions!

The summer before I came to the U, I spent a lot of time conditioning and training to be prepared to come in and be able to compete right away. I was nervous coming in because I didn't know how I would compare to the other pitchers and players here, but my teammates and coaches were really positive and helped me be more comfortable and confident in my abilities.

However, when I put my jersey on for the first time at our first fall game against NDSU, I couldn't help but be nervous. Stepping in the circle for the first time was so nerve-racking for me, I didn't know how to calm myself down. The first at bat that I threw was rough, and I walked the batter, but somehow after that happened I was more relaxed. Katie Richardson also really helped to calm my nerves because I could hear her talking to me the whole time from first base and the rest of my time in that game went well. As the fall season went on, my confidence on the mound increased a lot and made me really excited for our actual spring season!

Watching my team win the Big Ten Championship last year was unbelievable. Seeing their successes of the season made me excited to come in and work hard to try and help the team be just as successful as the last season. The seniors on this team are so uplifting and positive and because of that, I am so motivated to keep putting in work to give them their best season yet.

I am looking forward to being able to play with this team and to keep developing myself as a player and person. I am so happy to be a Gopher and I cannot wait to see what the season has in store for our team!

The 2015 Minnesota Softball season is approaching. The Gophers are coming off their best season in program history, a season that included the school's first Big Ten Tournament title since 1999 and its first-ever NCAA super regional appearance. This year's team will look to build on last year's success. The 42nd Gopher softball team will feature 22 student-athletes and each one has her own story. As the team's Feb. 6 opener against Washington gets closer, each player will look back on her journey to wearing the Maroon and Gold.



Coach Allister on No. 10, Paige Palkovich: "After splitting time between the infield and outfield her first two years at the U, Paige moved to the grass full time this fall. Paige is a fast athlete with a lot of range and will compete for the center field position this spring."
I recently saw a tweet on my Twitter news feed that read, "I hope to one day love something as much as Minnesotans love Minnesota." For those twitter-savvy readers, you'll know what I mean when I say I couldn't 'favorite' and 'retweet' that tweet fast enough.

I was born and raised, my entire life, in the beautiful and unparalleled state of Minnesota. It's safe to say that my love and loyalty to this great state is one of the things I'm most passionate about. Therefore, it was not a surprise to any of my family and friends when I had my sights set on the University of Minnesota early on in my search for the college I would attend after graduating high school.

From a young age, my sister and I were encouraged by our parents to play any and all sports we desired. I've recently come to realize how grateful I am for that unwavering support throughout every opportunity I was given (probably something I should've appreciated sooner...sorry Mom and Dad). When gymnastics and dance exposed my lack of grace and rhythm and I proved to have below average foot-eye coordination on the soccer field, basketball and softball were the last sports standing.

I played both sports all the way through high school, although I always knew that if I was lucky enough to continue my athletic career into college, I wanted it to be on the diamond. This worked out nicely, since softball always came more naturally and I could never really dribble with my left hand, anyway.

When I was 15, I joined the Minnesota Sting club organization in hopes of improving my level of play and increasing my exposure to college coaches. I played with the Sting for three years, traveling throughout the U.S. for tournaments and creating irreplaceable memories with my teammates (two of whom are still my teammates--Hannah Evavold and Taylor LeMay).

I give all of the credit to my coaches in the Sting organization for increasing my level of play and putting me in a position to be recruited. Their time and effort spent working with my team is something that I will never be able to adequately thank them for.

The summer after my junior year of high school, my team was at a tournament in Colorado and I was on deck for my second at bat when I noticed Coach Allister standing behind home plate, spectating. I had gone to a Gopher camp and seen her at a few other tournaments, but I felt that that was my chance to really make a lasting impression on her.

Looking back on it, I was extremely nervous. Fortunately, I was able to channel those nerves into a focus that resulted in a home run over the centerfield fence, and a sight of Coach Allister smiling as I rounded third and jogged through home. This is one of my most vivid memories I have of my recruiting process and I believe it was at this moment that my collegiate experience was decided, although I didn't realize it at the time.

Before I knew it, I was on an unofficial visit at Minnesota, touring the campus, seeing the facilities, and getting to know the coaches. As if I didn't have my mind made up already, the gorgeous buildings and the cozy, homey vibe that I felt while on campus definitely reassured me of my love for the school.

At that point, the genuineness of the coaches and their visions for the program were just icing on the cake. My visit concluded with a meeting in Coach Allister's office, where it was explained to me that they wanted me on their team. I was so grateful and incredibly humbled by the entire experience. What once seemed like a farfetched dream of mine became a reality a few days later when I was calling Coach Allister's cell phone to verbally commit to play for her, Coach Merchant, and Coach Ritter, on the Gopher softball team for the next four years. To this very day, the entire memory of that series of events gives me goosebumps and is still so surreal.

I feel as though I learned more-academically, personally, and about life altogether-in the nine months of my freshman year of college than I had in the entire 18 years prior. Adapting to a different routine and balancing the academic, athletic, and social aspects in a new environment definitely matured me and taught me a lot of valuable lessons about time management, self-discipline, and what it was going to take for me to be successful in all of those areas. I'm extremely thankful for those experiences.

My memories with the team, like Wenner airplane-ing into home and Katie's subpar bus karaoke performances, and the successes that we had along the way are the things that I'll cherish forever. The thing that I couldn't-and still can't-quite wrap my head around is how lucky I was (and still am) to be a part of a team with the immense amount of chemistry and love for each other that we have. I wholeheartedly believe that that dynamic is what makes our team so special, unique, and successful, and I will now move on before I get too sappy.

We had a great deal of success on the field my freshman year, making it to the Big Ten Championship and the NCAA tournament, but we were hungry for more and came back with a vengeance when my sophomore season rolled around. I honestly cannot put into words the emotions that were being felt by all 19 of us as Sammy Macken's walk-off hit drove in the run to win the 2014 Big Ten Championship. My lack of ability to find words that sufficiently describe those feelings is exactly what makes the whole deal so special.

The fact that no one, except us, knew how it felt to be the best team in the Big Ten at that moment. Little did we know, we would ALSO go on to HOST an NCAA regional, WIN that, and continue on to battle the No. 1-ranked team in the nation at super regionals.

It's those victories that fuel us every day and get us so excited for what lies ahead in the 2015 season. When the days get long, or practices get tough, or conditioning gets tiring...those memories are what remind us of why we do it all.

A wise woman by the name of Coach Merchant often says, "The journey is the reward," reminding us that all of our hard work is imperative in bringing us the successes that we celebrate. We are already in the thick of the journey, and the start of season is bringing the reward within reach. #StayTuned

The 2015 Minnesota Softball season is approaching. The Gophers are coming off their best season in program history, a season that included the school's first Big Ten Tournament title since 1999 and its first-ever NCAA super regional appearance. This year's team will look to build on last year's success. The 42nd Gopher softball team will feature 22 student-athletes and each one has her own story. As the team's Feb. 6 opener against Washington gets closer, each player will look back on her journey to wearing the Maroon and Gold.



Coach Allister on No. 12, Hannah Evavold: "Hannah put in good work with Coach Ritter this fall. She will provide our pitching staff with additional depth this spring."
My Gopher Softball journey started as a little girl. Never having thrown a softball underhand, I attended my first-ever pitching lesson on my 13th birthday. Starting late, my instructor always joked around that I was her first client to have no idea what an arm circle was. I was her first client starting from scratch.

After that first lesson, I told my parents that I wanted to be a Gopher Softball pitcher because that's where my pitching instructor had attended school and played.

From then on, I caught on fast and was competing as a pitcher in no time within my age group. By the time I was in eighth grade, I was pitching for my varsity high school team against Sara Moulton, a former Gopher Softball pitcher who now plays for the Chicago Bandits. This is when Coach Ritter first saw me play because she was recruiting Sara Moulton at the time (I did not know this until my first recruiting visit).

As I grew up and started looking into different schools around my sophomore year in high school, I realized I had no idea where I wanted to attend school. It got to the point where my parents had to buy me a map and marker and I sat and crossed out states where I was not interested in attending college. My parents were great throughout this entire process, allowing me to travel to schools all over. At this time I was never thinking I would play softball at a school only 20 minutes away from my hometown. Then, I began getting letters from the coaches here and I was asked to come on a visit my junior year in high school. I fell in love.

I was always worried about being on such a large campus with so many students, but when I got on campus it suddenly didn't seem so big. All I could focus on was the great school spirit, location of campus, and how great all of the girls seemed to get along with each other and the coaches. Being around the girls and coaches more, I knew this was the place I wanted to be. There is a special feeling when you find the team and coaches you know care so much about you as an overall player, student, and person. This is what I found here and I couldn't be more thankful.

Freshman year was definitely a learning experience. At the beginning of the year, I had an older teammate tell me that she learned so much freshman year. Not specifically learning in classes or on the field, but learned so much about life in general.

Reflecting back on last year, this statement is extremely true. I could not describe freshman year any better. You learn a lot about life when living alone for the first time and being challenged both athletically and academically more than you ever have. My teammates have continuously been great role models for me and all-around great people. I could not be more thankful.

Last year's season was an exciting season to come into as a freshman. I learned to work harder at something than I ever have in my entire life with people around me who all had the same aspirations and goals. I had never been a part of a team that has been so excited to go to practice every day or a team that holds each other to such high standards. Our energy was always great together on and off the field and I believe this is one of the things that made us so successful. Every single one of us was genuinely happy for everyone else with our on- and off-the-field achievements. This teamwork led us to win out first Big Ten Championship in many years.

Still to this day, I go back and watch the highlights from the Big Ten Tournament and get shivers and teary-eyed because it brings me such joy and excitement for the upcoming years.

This year's team is also extremely hard-working and the freshmen have clicked tremendously. They are already some of my best friends and I know will be for the rest of my life. Fall went great and I can't wait to get on the road for season to start.

We have been in a continuous countdown every day and the excitement in the locker room is continuing to increase. This team is special--not everyone has 21 teammates who can make them laugh when they are having an off day. But here, I could not thank God anymore. I am blessed to have the coaches and teammates I do in my life every day. It makes the experience so much more special.

The 2015 Minnesota Softball season is approaching. The Gophers are coming off their best season in program history, a season that included the school's first Big Ten Tournament title since 1999 and its first-ever NCAA super regional appearance. This year's team will look to build on last year's success. The 42nd Gopher softball team will feature 22 student-athletes and each one has her own story. As the team's Feb. 6 opener against Washington gets closer, each player will look back on her journey to wearing the Maroon and Gold.



Coach Allister on No. 13, Madie Eckstrom: "Madie is a left-handed hitter who possesses power to all fields. She will compete for time at the designated player position, and could also give us a great option in pinch-hitting situations."
I consider myself extremely lucky to have been recruited by Coach Allister and Coach Merchant. To be quite honest, I never thought that I would play at this level or even play softball after high school, so when I received my first phone call from an unknown number while watching Harry Potter, I was surprised to hear Coach Allister's voice on the other end.

Once I met Coach Allister in person and heard her vision for Gopher Softball, I was hooked. At that point, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be a part of her vision. I remember talking with my parents about my decision to commit to Minnesota and how excited I was to start a legacy there.

My future was decided and in the fall of 2011, I officially became a Minnesota Gopher and a member of the Gopher Softball team.

In the fall of 2011, I came to the university wide-eyed and to be quite honest, having no idea of what was about to happen to my life. Let me just say, that first month or so was one of the hardest times of my life. I came in mentally and physically under par and had a lot of work to do in order to catch up with everyone else and excel.

Looking back, I am extremely grateful that I was pushed so hard during that time because it not only made me mentally tough, but physically strong. I am most thankful that I was able to develop mental toughness because that skill has allowed me to overcome some fairly intense moments that life has thrown my way.

Being a part of the 2011 class was and is the best thing to ever happen to me. I came in knowing that these six girls would be my teammates for four years. What I didn't know was that they would become my best friends. We all have different personalities, but I think that is why we clicked so well. These six girls really became my family and I learned that could be myself around them early on. I think that because of how close our class is, as well as our entire team, our team has accomplished so much.

Speaking of accomplishments, winning the 2014 B1G Championship was ABSOLUTELY amazing! What our team did last year--becoming Big Ten champs, becoming regional champs, and making it to the Oregon Super Regional along with many other triumphs--has only increased my personal zeal to be even better for the 2015 season.

The expectations for the 2015 Gopher Softball team and season have increased exponentially. We've had a taste of success and we want more. Every single one of my teammates have rocketed past these expectations and raised the bar for our team and it's goals. The hard work and dedication that I have seen from these girls in the past five months is something that I have never seen before and shows how much we as a team want to bring Gopher Softball into the spotlight.

Don't worry about us, 'cause we will be coming for you.

The 2015 Minnesota Softball season is approaching. The Gophers are coming off their best season in program history, a season that included the school's first Big Ten Tournament title since 1999 and its first-ever NCAA super regional appearance. This year's team will look to build on last year's success. The 42nd Gopher softball team will feature 22 student-athletes and each one has her own story. As the team's Feb. 6 opener against Washington gets closer, each player will look back on her journey to wearing the Maroon and Gold.



Coach Allister on No. 14, Hannah Granger: "Hannah is a diligent worker that continues to improve upon all aspects of her game each and every year. An outfielder with the ability to hit for power to all fields, Hannah will compete for time in the grass and at the designated player position."
I have always considered myself to be a person who has been in the right place at the right time and becoming a part of the Gopher Softball family was one of those lucky moments for me.

I began playing softball at the age of five in Indiana before moving to Illinois at age six. By the time I had reached fifth grade, I knew softball was something I wanted to continue to do for a long time. At that point, my parents thought it would be a good idea to sign me up for a more competitive travel team, the Wheaton Wildcats. Throughout the five summers I spent with the Wildcats, I learned that being part of a sports team was more like a family than I had originally anticipated. These teammates and their families grew to be my family and still are to this day.

However, I knew that if I wanted to continue playing softball at the college level, I would have to find an even more competitive team to play with so I could have some exposure to college coaches. Thus, for the last three summers of my high school career, I played for the Lemont Rockers. We traveled all over the country and were seen by many coaches. Little did I know, luck would bring me to a tournament in my home state where I was then recruited.

It was the fall of my senior year and I had been filling out applications for many schools already. I have known I wanted to be a teacher since I was in eighth grade, so I applied to three or four schools with great education programs, and at this point, Minnesota was not even on my radar.

We had a tournament a few weekends before Thanksgiving where I knew quite a few college coaches would be in attendance, but I really had gotten to the point where I just wanted to enjoy my last few months of playing softball with my friends; I didn't think it was even still possible for me to get recruited. However, a homerun and a couple plays in the outfield later, I caught the attention of Coach Allister as she was passing by our game and after the game, she asked me to come to Minnesota for a visit.

I instantly fell in love with the school, the atmosphere, and the vision the coaches had for the program. The last day of my visit, Coach Allister let me know the deal and I immediately said, "I'm in, Coach!"

That was probably the luckiest moment of my life. I did not know it at that point, but those coaches that sat before me, and the teammates I would come to know, have truly become my family. They have helped me through the hardest time in my life and are continually supporting me every day in everything that I do. I could not have asked for a better place to spend my four years in college.

Now, my mom always despised me saying I was lucky because she believed that people "make their own luck". However, as true as that may be, I still have to say, I am truly blessed to be where I am today. I am looking forward to diving into my senior season with this incredible team and give our best effort to return to the Big Ten Championship and postseason. I believe we have all the right parts to make Gopher Softball a well-oiled machine. I am so excited to see what trials and successes this season has in store for us! Go Gophers!

The 2015 Minnesota Softball season is approaching. The Gophers are coming off their best season in program history, a season that included the school's first Big Ten Tournament title since 1999 and its first-ever NCAA super regional appearance. This year's team will look to build on last year's success. The 42nd Gopher softball team will feature 22 student-athletes and each one has her own story. As the team's Feb. 6 opener against Washington gets closer, each player will look back on her journey to wearing the Maroon and Gold.



Coach Allister on No. 15, Erika Rozell: "Erika is a tremendous athlete that can hit for power and run. She has the potential to develop into an every day player either behind the plate or in the outfield."
Growing up, I played many different sports because I loved being active and being able to compete. I always knew that I wanted to play a sport in college, but never really knew which one. I knew that if I wanted to get recruited by college coaches, I would need to play at a higher level. I joined a club team in seventh grade and this was the beginning of my journey. After one year of playing at the elite level, my love for the game increased immensely.

One thing that my club coach emphasized was going to college camps to get exposure. As an eighth grader, I began my college search. I attended camps at different schools in and around Minnesota in search for a place that I could excel academically and also athletically. I went to a countless number of camps but none of them had the combinations of what I wanted in a school. It wasn't until my sophomore year of high school that I ended up at a Gopher softball camp and I loved every second of it.

I went on an unofficial visit during the fall of my junior year. During this visit, I was able to meet some of the players, tour the school, and attend Gopher sporting events. During this visit, I fell in love with every aspect of the school.

I chose the University of Minnesota for many different reasons. One thing I wanted in the school that I attended for college was to be close to a city, and with the U being located in Minneapolis, I thought this would be the perfect fit all around. I knew I wanted to go to a big school, and the U was one of the largest schools on my list. The main reason I chose to attend the U of M was because I would be able to play Division I and represent my home state.

My favorite part of the transition into becoming a college student was all of the freedom that comes along with it. In my first semester of college, I learned so much about independence and responsibility.

When I went on my official visit, I absolutely loved spending time and getting to know the team. As for working out in the summer, I am lucky because I live so close to campus. I was able to come in and lift the first couple weeks before I got on campus. This helped me a lot because I was able to learn all of the different lifts.

As soon as I arrived on campus, I felt at home. It is such a great experience being on a team with so many individuals that all have a common goal.

There are no words to describe what it was like to watch them on TV as they won a Big Ten championship. All I knew is that I wanted to be a part of something as great as that.

It is such an amazing experience being able to play on the same field as people that I have watched on the team over the past couple of years.

As for this upcoming season, I cannot wait for games to start. I am so excited to continue practicing with the team and getting better every single day. Being a part of this team is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

The 2015 Minnesota Softball season is approaching. The Gophers are coming off their best season in program history, a season that included the school's first Big Ten Tournament title since 1999 and its first-ever NCAA super regional appearance. This year's team will look to build on last year's success. The 42nd Gopher softball team will feature 22 student-athletes and each one has her own story. As the team's Feb. 6 opener against Washington gets closer, each player will look back on her journey to wearing the Maroon and Gold.



Coach Allister on No. 16, Taylor LeMay: "Taylor did a tremendous job for us as a rookie behind the plate last spring. She worked diligently this fall to improve her defensive skill set and will continue to be an offensive threat in the middle of our lineup."
Everyone growing up has what he or she would call their "dream school". Some dream schools are where their parents went or the school with the cool colors and the awesome mascot. Others are the school that represents your state and the one you grew up watching for as long as you can remember. That was the case with me. I have been a fan of the Golden Gophers my whole life. I come from a family that is very passionate about Gopher sports, so most of my weekends had the maroon and gold covering the television screen or we went to games in person. I quickly realized the U of M was my dream school and that I would attend this University some day.

As my passion grew for softball, I also knew I wanted to play ball here. I vividly remember a day my grandpa and I went to a Gopher softball game when I was in sixth grade and I spent the whole doubleheader watching the catcher. I sat there telling myself that someday I would be in her shoes and it would be me behind the plate. So I guess you could say my journey to the University of Minnesota began long before any recruiting started.

Unfortunately, I did not start my softball career at the U of M. I spend my freshman year at a different school before transferring to the U for the start of my sophomore season. During my freshman year, I was unable to play softball, which was extremely hard for me. I had never been away from the game for more than a few weeks and now I had to take a whole year off. That year taught me to appreciate the game and not take it for granted and it only provided me with more motivation to be as good of a softball player as I could be.

Once I had officially decided to transfer, I was able to spend a day on campus watching a practice and conditioning. This allowed me to get a real feel for what the life of being a Gopher softball player would be like. Later that day, I went on a tour of the campus with Coach Allister and had lunch with the coaches. Knowing that I might have the chance to play for and learn from all three of these coaches was very exciting. I instantly knew this was a perfect fit for me, and could not wait to make my transfer to The U official.

When I started school at the U, I knew I had made the best decision of my life to come here. The entire team was incredibly welcoming and they made me feel comfortable right away. Many different teammates would ask me how I was liking the school, how practice was going, or let me know that if I needed anything they would be there to help. Although they may not have known at the time, the time they took to check in on me made my transition much easier.

Also, the type of program Coach Allister and her coaching staff have created is one that is built on hard work and unwavering dedication to our sport. I had never worked as hard or been as physically and mentally challenged as I was that first year on campus. However, that was exactly what I wanted. The coaches have taught me an incredible amount about the game of softball, but they have also taught me much more. They have taught me to take full advantage of the wonderful education we are able to receive here at the U of M. They have taught me life skills that I am able to carry with me into my future career. Most importantly, they have taught the team to simply be good people, have good character, and to represent ourselves in the best way possible.

The 2014 season was something special. From winning the Big Ten Championship, to winning regionals, and competing in the programs first ever Super Regional appearance, it was a season to truly be proud of and blessed to be a part of. There is no greater feeling than when you are standing on a field celebrating a championship with a team that has put every ounce of energy they had into being the best team possible. That feeling has never left any of us; we want to experience it again.

It is truly an honor to wake up every day and represent the state of Minnesota and this university in the sport that means so much to me. It is a dream come true for me to be able to put the maroon and gold on every day. It is something that I do not and will not ever take for granted.

It is evident this season that our goals are set higher. We all come to practice every day ready to work and get better in all aspects of our game. This team is going to be a special one and we are going to make many memorable moments just like last year. I cannot wait for the 2015 season to kick off! Just 16 days away! As Coach Allister would say, "Get excited!"

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