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!"

Cobb Impressing At Senior Bowl

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Minnesota running back David Cobb is turning heads at the Senior Bowl this week in Alabama. Cobb started all 13 games for the Gophers rushed 314 times (single-season record) for 1,626 yards (single-season record) and 13 touchdowns (tied for third most in a season). He had seven 100-yard rushing games (tied for second most in a single season) and caught 16 passes for 162 yards. He also completed one pass for 9 yards and was named All-Big Ten Second Team by the coaches and media. Cobb received the team's Bronko Nagurski Award (team most valuable player) and Bruce Smith Award (outstanding offensive player) and was also named the Bob McNamara Offensive Back of the Year.

Here's what people are saying about Minnesota's power back.


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. 17, Sara Groenewegen: "Sara is a dynamic athlete who has the ability to be a game changer on both sides of the ball. We are excited to see her step into a leadership role on our pitching staff and continue to produce in the middle of our lineup."
Geography is one of my strongest subjects in school, but to be honest I had never even heard of the state of Minnesota until I saw Coach Allister standing behind the backstop watching me play. I knew who the other two coaches were beside her mainly because they were coaches from well-known, prestigious programs in the West, but when I saw the maroon and gold jacket she was wearing I was confused, but also interested in finding out who she was.

Coach Allister first watched me the September of my junior year. Being a Canadian had something to do with having little to no exposure in high school, so that is why I played on a travel team based out of Seattle, Wash. for my junior year. If I had not played on a team in the U.S., the likelihood of me being at the U or any Division I program would've been slim. A lot of kids get overlooked when recruited--and I know this first hand--so I am really appreciative that the coaches saw potential in me.

A lot of people ask why I play in the U.S. instead of Canada and the answer is simple: the competition. It is an incomparable level in relation to the level of play at home.

For example, we don't even have high school softball where I am from. I am a very competitive person and I knew the NCAA was home to some of the most competitive ball around the world, which is why people from Canada, Australia and other countries come to play on American soil.

Some people are shocked that I am able to be so far away from my family, but I knew what I was getting myself into when I signed my NLI. A flight home would be expensive no matter where I went to school, so I knew I wasn't going to be seeing them much. The one thing I knew was that I would be home in December and for the summer no matter where I went to school, so distance did not really matter to me.

Minnesota wasn't the first program to contact me, but the maroon and gold was always in the back of my mind every time I was connecting with another program.

One of the main things in the recruiting process that really 'hooked' me to be a Gopher was how persistent the coaches were. This was mainly because with the other schools I was talking to, it was the other way around where the player has to be very persistent and almost annoying to be in contention of a spot on the team. Every week, I received at least one thing in the mail (I still have all of them), whether it was information about the school, the softball program, the athletic community or even a funny picture.

One thing I can remember vividly is when the coaches sent me a Christmas card (before I had committed) where all three of the coaches had something personal to say. I knew once I got that card that it would be hard for another school to win me over. It made me feel like the coaches really wanted me to play for them, and that is where my journey as a Gopher began.

The coaches really grasped my attention by saying how bright of a future there could be for the team with a couple of years under their belts. They provided an opportunity to be a part of something great: building a program.

Freshman year was beyond what I could even imagine it being. When I first got to campus I was so scared because everything was new to me; I picked up everything I knew and was ready for a fresh start.

I first had to learn my role on the team. I didn't even know the coaches wanted me to hit until I went to coach Merchant's office and she handed me a bat--I was pumped! I then had to learn the team dynamics and get to know new faces, but with our team, that took no time at all. We are a family here. When you're around the team almost every minute of the day, it makes it easy to connect and build relationships on and off the field. Everyone was so welcoming and fun to be around, which made being away from home easy.

Last year was definitely an unforgettable season, and looking back at it makes me even more excited for this upcoming season. Being a part of a team that helped flip the program was thrilling and it has started a fire inside the team and myself to continue our success.

Something I believe in, and it is written on our door in the locker room, is the saying "limits are self-imposed". It is exciting to be apart of something that realistically has no limits. Last year was our program's best season yet, but that isn't stopping us from trying to make it an even better season this year!

This year's team is ready to build off of last year. We now know what it takes to compete for a Big Ten title and a trip to go deep in the postseason. We have implemented a championship culture and mindset into our fall and winter practices trying to prepare us for the 2015 season.

As the season quickly approaches us (17 days to be exact), it only makes us more excited. We are ready to prove not only to ourselves, but to everyone else that Gopher Softball is an up-and-coming program in the NCAA, and we are ready.

Women's Hockey Visits Fan in Hospital

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As the Gopher women's hockey team was preparing for their Border Battle against Wisconsin earlier this month, the team took time out of their day to visit one special fan, who was being treated at a children's hospital in the Twin Cities area. The Gophers visited Bethany Schmidt, who is a goalie in the Windom youth hockey program.

Fourteen of the Gopher women's hockey team came to visit her and left her with an autographed stick and tickets to the upcoming series.

"The visit from the Gophers was medicine for her," Bethany's mom, Jacquie, said. "Her doctor came in the next day and couldn't believe her improvement. He'd never seen a patient start to recover as fast."

Read the full story HERE!

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