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!

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. 18, Nikki Anderson: "Nikki is a left-handed pitcher that has the ability to throw the ball hard. After her strong showing at the end of last season we are excited to see Nikki throw more innings this spring."
Since I was young, I have always had a softball in my hands and since I was young I was always wearing the maroon and gold. Growing up in a family of Gophers is quite interesting! My mom, two aunts, two uncles, grandma and grandpa all attended the University of Minnesota! My Grandpa Bob played baseball for the Gophers in 1956 as an outfielder when the Gophers won their first national championship and my Aunt Lezlie played for the Gophers from 1980-83 when they first joined the Big Ten. Now I am very fortunate to have my little sister here on campus with me too!

When you grow up in the family that I did, you had no choice but to bleed maroon and gold. My first day on campus, I remember my family telling me about their times at the U and all the places I needed to eat like Annie's, Stub and Herbs, and Vescio's.

Being from Brainerd, Minn., fastpitch softball was not as popular as it is now when I started playing it in the summer of 2007. I remember when my mom signed me up for my first fastpitch softball team. I asked her what fastpitch was because all I had ever known was slow pitch. When I saw those girls pitch at my first practice, that was all I wanted to do! But, oh boy, was I a terrible fastpitch softball pitcher and at the end of the summer I was cut from the team after they had hosted tryouts.

I got this letter in the mail saying that I did not make the team for next summer and I was heartbroken. I thought that letter meant that I could no longer play softball at all--I was 13 at the time that all of this was happening. I looked at my mom and I said, "Mom, when I am a freshman in high school, I will be the starting pitcher. I will be the best pitcher that Brainerd has ever had." So all winter long I worked my tail off and as a seventh grader and in the spring of 2008 I made the eighth grade softball team. In early June of 2008, my mom got a call from the coach of the summer team I had been cut from asking me to rejoin the team!

Well, I kept working my butt off and in eighth grade I played on the ninth grade team and then finally I was a freshman in high school. Every single day of my freshman year, I told myself that I wanted to be the starting pitcher and I worked really hard to try and achieve that goal of mine.

Finally, when high school ball came around I became the starting pitcher for the Brainerd Warriors and was the starter for all four years during my high school career! But after I had reached my goal of being the starter for the Warriors, I knew that I needed a new goal and that new goal was to play for a great Division I school.

I will never forget the day that I got my first recruiting email from Coach Ritter. That had to have been one of the best days of my life! To be recruited by my family's alma mater was a dream come true for me, so I went on an official visit in October and fell in love with the campus!

My mom and grandpa (yes, my grandpa came on my official visit) toured the campus with me and were telling me about how they had to register for classes before there were computers and how they actually had to do research by using actual books! Later that night, my mom, grandpa and I went to a Gopher men's hockey game with my team host, Coach Allister, Coach Ritter and Coach Merchant. I remember having to explain the rules of hockey to Coach Allister!

The most memorable moment of my official visit had to have been the next morning when I went to watch the team do an early morning conditioning workout. About 15 minutes into the workout, I went with Coach Merchant to get bagels for breakfast since I had never had Bruegger's Bagels before. When I got back to the indoor turf where the team was working out, all I saw were girls exhausted and sprawled out all over. All I could think was, "Oh my gosh! What happened in the 20 minutes that I was gone?" But I knew the kind of work ethic the coaches and the girls had here at the U of M and I knew that I wanted to be a part of a great team.

Signing my NLI for the University of Minnesota was the best decision that I have ever made. I am very proud to be a third-generation ball player for the Golden Gophers and I am very proud to be a part of such a wonderful team. As a team last year, we made huge strides to make 2014 so successful and winning the NCAA Regional Championship game, for me, was the highlight of our amazing season!

We have put in so much hard work in this fall and having just started up practices, I can see that we will be another great team and that every one of my teammates wants to be on the field in Oklahoma this year. It will take a lot of hard work, but I know that this team is up for the challenge!

I cannot wait to start our season in Las Vegas! The freshmen get to put on their Gopher uniform for the first time and our seniors get to step out on the field for the beginning of their final season as Golden Gophers. I believe that this team has set some high goals and that we are ready to begin on the path to the 2015 Women's College World Series!

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. 21, Sydney Fabian: "Sydney is a left-handed hitter that can play the short game and hit for power. Syd is a strong defensive outfielder who made several game changing catches last season."
Growing up in Minnesota, it is hard to miss the unmatched pride our state has in the University of Minnesota and its athletic teams. As a young girl, I vividly remember the overwhelming excitement of getting to attend Gopher Hockey games with my dad, as well as the loud cheers for Gopher Football that filled my family's house on Saturday afternoons. As long as I can remember, I have been in love with the University of Minnesota. Now, having the opportunity to represent the Gophers, playing the game I love, is an absolute blessing.

I was a two-sport athlete in high school, playing both ice hockey and softball. My dream was to continue playing one of these sports at the next level. I was recruited by small schools for both sports, but I was not passionate about any of the universities that were contacting me. This all changed at the beginning of my junior year when Coach Merchant approached me after a fall softball game. Coach expressed interest in me as a possible recruit and invited me to attend hitting clinics put on by both Coach Merchant and Coach Allister. I immediately connected to the coaching style used at these clinics and felt that the amount I could learn from Coach Allister and Coach Merchant was exponential. This is when I knew the University of Minnesota was where I was supposed to be.

When I arrived on campus my freshman year, I realized very quickly that the adjustment from high school to college would be a challenging one. At first, I had a hard time balancing practice and schoolwork, but I soon learned the ropes thanks to my incredible teammates. I was unsure of many things my first semester of college, but one thing I have never questioned is how strong of a bond I share with every single one of my teammates. If I need help finding a class, they walk me there. If I need someone to edit a paper, they gladly volunteer. If I need anything, I can count on any or all of my teammates to be there. Friends like these are hard to come by and that is why I know that our softball team is special. We care about each other, we challenge each other, and we make each other better every day--that is why we are successful.

Becoming a member of the University of Minnesota Softball team hasn't come without obstacles. From the moment I started at the University, it became clear to me how demanding collegiate sport can be. Successes are earned through hard work, and long hours on the softball field, and in the classroom. There is, however, no greater reward than being challenged, and succeeding alongside your teammates and coaches.

Never before in my life have I played or worked with people with as much drive and passion as the 21 other girls that put on that University of Minnesota softball jersey. Coach Allister's program is built on hard work and will to compete and win. Our goal is to outwork every other team in the nation in order to continue to grow, win, and build our program. Getting to wear the Minnesota "M" on my chest is an absolute privilege and each day, that "M" reminds me of all the hard work we have put it and the amazing things our team has already accomplished.

The feeling of winning a Big Ten Championship alongside my best friends was the most amazing experience in my career thus far. Sprinting onto the field and hugging my teammates in celebration validated all the hours of work we have put in and our team's incredible drive to always be better than we already are.

Our work continued to be validated as we went on to host and win a regional in the 2014 season, as well as attend the University of Minnesota's first every super regional. 2014 was an incredible season; it was a blessing to have had the opportunity to be a part of this memorable team.

The University of Minnesota grants me every day an opportunity to compete, to be my personal best, and because of that I am truly grateful. I have learned many things in my short two and a half years at the university. I have learned how to respond to challenges, how to fight back against adversity, and how to get better every day. Most importantly though, I've learned in its truest sense what it means to be a teammate.

I am so excited to continue to learn and grow with my team in this 2015 season. Make sure you all #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. 24, Hannah Melick: "Hannah has the ability to be a strong contributor in the middle of our line-up. She is a right handed hitter who has tremendous power to all fields. We are looking for Hannah to elevate her offensive game this spring."
My journey to the University of Minnesota is one quite unconventional compared to others. Coach Allister first recruited me in my sophomore and junior years of high school while she coached at the University of Oregon. When she left there, I was disappointed that I would never get to play under her. While I was in the transferring process after my sophomore year, I immediately got in contact with Coach Allister. I believed this was my second chance to play under another great coach and for a program on the rise.

I came on a quick, two-day visit one weekend that summer. The campus was beautiful and a lot bigger than what I had been used to. The few girls that were still on campus were incredibly nice and welcoming. Plus, Erika Smyth, a Washington native who I had formerly played travel ball with, said that there was no better place to be.

I was in Florida with my sister the week before my visit and being from Washington, the normal summer temperature is around 70 degrees. That day, it was around 70 there and the girls that came with me on my tour were dying from the heat.

I thought they were crazy and over exaggerating, but I didn't really understand why until I spent last winter here. When the temperature finally got up into 40s people started running around campus in shorts like it was summertime and I couldn't believe it. I would send pictures to my mom all bundled up in layers to the point where you could barely see my face walking to class in negative temperatures. She bought me a heater blanket that year for Christmas.

The moment I stepped foot on campus at the start of my junior year sort of felt like freshman year all over again. It was a brand new campus with a whole new team and a new apartment with three teammates whom I had never met before, but Coach Allister said not to worry, that they are awesome and that I shouldn't be absolutely terrified of them like I was.

We started practice that week and I knew these girls would be my new family. They immediately took me in like I had been on the team forever. Practicing at first base with Smitty at second at first felt just like travel ball, so the transition to practice was incredibly easy and fun. The whole team does a lot together throughout the fall semester. We hang out just about every weekend, going to football games, shopping, studying and volunteering. Anything I have ever done on campus I have done with another teammate.

Last year's season was a special one, no doubt about it. Winning the Big Ten Championship was just icing on the cake for an already-special year. I had never been so genuinely happy to win a game in my entire life. That moment right there was the reason I have played softball for my entire life. Even if we hadn't won that game, it still would have been the best team I have ever played on. This is a group of girls I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. The hard work we put in together builds bonds that are unbreakable.

This year's team is one to look out for. We have so much talent, but the thing that is the most exciting is the work we put in. Every day so far, we have shown up to practice to get better, not just show up. There are so many of us that there is competition all over the field, which is exciting and fun all at the same time. As a team, we read The Energy Bus over winter break and when the team gets back and puts its main points into action there is no goal this team can't attain.

Season can't come soon enough! Twenty-four days and we will hit the ground running and never look back. Stay tuned--the 2015 season will be an unforgettable ride.

Unlimited Dance Marathon Set for Another Year

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As the spring semester is ready to begin, the Unlimited Dance Marathon fundraising efforts have ramped up as well. This year's event, held March 28 from 12 p.m.-12 a.m., in the Sports Pavilion, will look to make just as big of an impact as it did in 2014. All donations and proceeds go directly towards the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.

Last year, Gopher Athletics assisted with the Unlimited Dance Marathon and raised nearly $29,000 in cash donations. Prior to Gopher Athletics involvement, Unlimited raised $13,800 in 2012-13 combined. With gift-in-kinds and cash donations, Unlimited and Gopher Athletics raised nearly $84,000 in 2014.

Haven't heard of the Unlimited Dance Marathon? It's a year-long fundraising effort culminating in a 12-hour Dance Marathon. No sleeping, no sitting, just dancing. We also raise emotional, financial support and awareness for children and their families treated at the Masonic Children's Hospital.

As Gopher fans, you can help the cause. Click here to make an online donation or visit some of our upcoming events to for monetary donations as our student-athletes will continue the fundraising efforts.

Unlimited Fundraising Events (all donations go towards U of M Masonic Children's Hospital)
Jan. 24, Men's Gymnastics vs. Air Force, 5 p.m., Sports Pavilion
Jan. 30, Wrestling vs. Iowa, 6 p.m., Williams Arena
Jan. 30, Women's Hockey vs. Ohio State, 7 p.m., Ridder Arena
Feb. 7, Men's Basketball vs. Purdue, 2 p.m., Williams Arena

NHL: Kessel, Johnson Earn ASG Invites

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MINNEAPOLIS ( - Gopher Hockey alums Phil Kessel and Erik Johnson have been named to the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game, the league announced over the weekend.  The 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game is set for Sunday, Jan. 25 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio (4 p.m. CT, NBC Sports). 

Kessel will be making his third-straight All-Star Game appearance (2011, 2012) for the Toronto Maple Leafs - tied for second most among Gophers with Reed Larson (1978, 1980, 1981). Only Mike Ramsey has made more All-Star Game appearances among Minnesota alums with four (1982, 1983, 1985, 1986). In 42 games this season, Kessel ranks 10th in the NHL with 43 points and tied for eighth with 19 goals. The forward has 502 points (241 goals, 261 assists) in 628 career NHL regular-season games with another 21 points (13 goals, eight assists) in 22 career playoff games. 

Johnson will make his first appearance at the All-Star Game this season as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. In 41 games this year, Johnson leads all NHL defensemen with 12 goals and has another 10 assists for 22 points. The defenseman has 192 points (48 goals, 144 assists) in 450 career NHL regular-season games with another two points (one goal, one assist) in seven career playoff games. 

A total of 16 Gopher Hockey alums have seen NHL action so far this year - Keith Ballard (MIN), Nick Bjugstad (FLA), Alex Goligoski (DAL), Erik Haula (MIN), Erik Johnson (COL), Phil Kessel (TOR), Nick Leddy (NYI), Jordan Leopold (CBJ), Paul Martin (PIT), Kyle Okposo (NYI), Nate Schmidt (WAS), Thomas Vanek (MIN), Blake Wheeler (WPG), Jordan Schroeder (MIN), Stu Bickel (MIN), Seth Helgeson (NJD).

-Pride On Ice-

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. 26, Kaitlyn Richardson: "Katie's ability to hit for both a high average and power has made for a driving force in the middle of our lineup the past three years. A true leader in our program, Katie is committed to being the best student, softball player and teammate she can be."
I started my journey to becoming a Gopher at the end of the summer going into my senior year of high school. Compared to most of my friends, I had a very late start choosing the school I was going to. In fact, I was one of the last people on my team to commit to a university. I met Coach Allister in the last game of Nationals in August of my senior year. She approached me after we had been eliminated and we hit it off right away.

I remember our conversation vividly. We talked about my club team, school, subjects I was interested in, and of course softball--we got to talk about a little of everything in our short time at the softball fields. After we finished our conversation she handed me her card and mentioned that she would like me to take a visit to the University of Minnesota. As she walked away I looked at my mom and said, "Did she just say what I think she said?" Before I knew it I was having regular conversations with all three of the coaches.

What really stuck out to me was their drive to make change. From my first conversation I had with Coach Allister, I truly believed that she was going to turn Minnesota Softball around. Every conversation after that with the coaches made me believe it more and more. They even started making me think that I could help them do it. After talking to them for a little more than a month, I decided that I would take a visit to see what the University had to offer. I was fortunate in the recruiting process that my parents supported me and allowed me to make my own decisions. They guided me with questions and opportunities that I needed to consider throughout my recruiting process, but the decision was always mine.

When I finally came on my visit, I knew this was the school for me. I had an amazing trip. The campus was beautiful and the team was great. Although they had only been playing for Coach Allister for a few months, you could hear the excitement and enthusiasm in their voices. On my last day of my visit I told Coach Allister at breakfast that I wanted to be apart of building Gopher Softball into a prestigious program. She jumped across the table and gave me a huge hug; it was the best decision I have ever made.

Unfortunately, a few months after I signed my National Letter of Intent, I decided to get knee surgery. Throughout my life my left patella dislocated frequently, but my senior year it became progressively worse. The only way that I could play in college was if I could get it fixed. It was a tough decision for me. Not only did I have to tell the Minnesota staff that I wanted this surgery, but I had to go to my high school coach's office and tell her that I would not be playing my senior year. Although it was tough to sit out, I knew that it was a sacrifice that I had to make in order to be ready for college. Having that surgery taught me many different lessons. I went to physical therapy almost every single day from when I got the surgery until I left for school. My daily goals were strict because I was trying to recover in a much quicker time frame than my doctor told me I would need to take. I cut the recovery time down by about five months. Also, by not playing my senior year, I was able to see the game from a different perspective. I learned to appreciate the game and when I stepped on the field my first semester of college I told myself I would never take for granted being able to play the game I love.

There was nothing like freshman year. Our freshman class hit it off right away. I knew that they were going to be my friends for a lifetime. It seemed to be that we were inseparable. That first semester was fun and exciting, but between time management and the weather, it was quite an adjustment. I learned how to juggle school and softball, but more importantly, I learned that I wouldn't be able to wear my flip flops in December anymore. The team camaraderie and the cohesiveness of my class really helped me feel like Minnesota was where I was meant to be.

On the field, I had never worked harder than when I arrived at Minnesota. Our program is built on hard work. We believe that we are going to outwork every other team in the nation to get where we want to be. We had a very young team my freshman year and while we were successful, we also had some big lessons to learn. I think that we have grown so much as a team every year and those lessons are important in becoming a prestigious program. We left our freshman season just shy of the postseason and it made us hungry and driven to do even better in our following three years.

Winning the Big Ten Championship last year meant so much to me. It proved that all of our hard work was for a reason. We came in every day and put our heart on the line. Our freshman class was Coach Allister's first recruiting class and winning the Big Ten Championship game felt like we were truly starting to accomplish what we came here to do. Winning that tournament and going to super regionals were the next two steps for our program. Although we had a memorable season, it did not satisfy us but it motivated us for this year.

As a team, we are extremely proud of what we accomplished in the 2014 season but now we know what it takes and we are excited for this season. It is going to take everything we have done in the past and even more to continue to get better and be the last team standing in Oklahoma. We put in a lot of great work this fall. We continued to get better every single day preparing for what the spring will bring us. I am extremely excited for this season and I think we have what it takes to have another special season.<

I cannot wait for our first tournament in Vegas. It will be exciting for everyone. The freshmen get to travel for the first time and the seniors get to start their last season in a Gopher uniform. Our goals are set and we are ready to begin our journey to Oklahoma City with the 2015 Minnesota Softball team. Stay tuned!