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. 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!"

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.

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.

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