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.

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!

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. 28, Danielle Parlich: "Danielle Parlich is another versatile infielder who saw a lot of time at second base this fall. Nel possesses a steady glove and a consistent left handed bat. Nel comes to Minnesota from Arizona following in the footsteps of Gopher greats, Malisa Barnes and Kaitlyn Richardson."
Sports have always been a big part on my life. Both of my parents played multiple sports growing up and they encouraged the same from my sister and I. The two sports my sister and I fell in love with were basketball and softball. My sister, who is five years older than me, was approaching high school and my dad knew that it was time for her to pick a sport that she wanted to pursue a college career in. At this time we were still living in Illinois, where basketball was a very popular sport to play. However, she enjoyed playing softball over any other sport she tried and chose that path just like I would later on.

When I was in fourth grade, my parents decided they wanted to move out to Arizona for multiple reasons; one being softball. Softball on the West Coast is highly competitive and challenging, so my parents knew that it would be best for us if we wanted to pursue a college career. It was hard to move and leave all my friends and family behind and it was hard to start at a new school where I would know absolutely no one. However, no matter where I was, I would always have softball, which would never change.

For the next four years I played in Arizona and even played on a team my dad coached for two years. After playing for a few years in Arizona, I joined a California travel ball team for the next three years. Playing in California from eighth grade until 10th grade was a little bit of a struggle for me and really made me think about if I wanted to continue to play softball. Three out of four weekends of every month, I would be traveling to California instead of staying home or hanging out with my friends once my games were done.

It was during my sophomore year that I started to think about recruiting. Seeing how much fun my teammates were having going through that process once again got me excited about playing.

I realized that I did not just spend the last 10 years of my life playing softball, which I loved, only to give up now when I was so close. I then started not to care about how much I was traveling, but instead could not wait for the weekend so I could play. For my final two years of travel ball, I played for the Arizona Hotshots, the team that helped get me recruited to the University of Minnesota.

During my junior year, I started to seriously look around for a school I wanted to go to. I wanted to go to a school in the Midwest that had an excelling softball program. I also wanted to go to a school where the academics were great and where there was a lot of opportunity for my future.

With all of that in my mind I started to look around and went on some visits, but nothing felt right. I first found out about Minnesota from my sister, Sam, who played against them twice during her college career. From there I did some research and knew I wanted to take a visit to the campus.

After my unofficial visit I knew immediately that this was the school I wanted to go to. The campus was gorgeous, the academics were spectacular, there was a great volunteer program, and of course the coaches were amazing! At the end of my visit, I verbally committed and could not wait to be a Golden Gopher!

When I finally got to campus, I could not wait to start playing. During the 20 hours we were allowed to practice, we put in a lot of work and time together. With all that hard work, we won all of our fall games and I can only imagine how we can do in the spring.

With the spring coming up very shortly, my anticipation is growing! I cannot wait to travel with everyone (especially here to Arizona) for all the tournaments at the beginning and then to finally start Big Ten play. With the team winning the Big Ten tournament last year and seeing them receive their rings this fall, I really hope I too get this great opportunity to win one with these great girls.

With softball being one aspect of college life, school and living in the dorm are also apart of it. School for me went great this fall and it was relatively easy to adjust to balancing school and softball. However, being so far away from home, and being a freshman on top of that, it was hard to adjust to being away for such a long period of time. It was weird not to see my family every day, to not get a home cooked meal, and to even do my own laundry! However, my teammates made the process a lot easier. We would go out to eat, hang out on the weekends, and even went paintballing for someone's birthday!

This fall, I had a ton of fun getting to know everyone both on and off the field and cannot wait to see what this season has in store for us!

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. 32, Sydney Dwyer: "Sydney Dwyer is a versatile infielder who could see time at both middle infield positions as well as third base this spring. Syd is also a powerful offensive threat who will fight for time in the middle of our lineup."
Unlike many other collegiate softball players, I never experienced travel softball. In Iowa, high school softball is played in the summer instead of the spring, eliminating the possibility of playing on a travel team. Consequently, I could not experience the same recruitment opportunities as players who participated in travel ball. High school softball was my only chance for college coach exposure and it is very rare to get recruited through a high school team. Luckily, Lori Duncan, a former assistant coach at LSU, was my high school coach. I knew that she would put me in a position to reach my goal of playing collegiate softball.

After a successful eighth grade season playing for Coach Duncan, I had high hopes for my freshman season. All of these hopes were diminished when I tore my ACL during a basketball open gym only one week before my freshman softball season started. Initially, I was unaware of the physical and mental struggles I would face in order to fully recover.

Having to sit in the dugout all summer and watch each game and practice made me reevaluate myself as an athlete. Knowing that a successful freshman year would have helped me in the recruiting process, I did not know what my future looked like. I committed myself to rehabilitation for the next nine months, returning to athletics halfway through basketball season. I knew that if I could return to the sport in which I originally hurt my knee, then I could overcome the fear of doing it again. I would also be prepared for my sophomore softball season.

Through rehabilitation, I learned to be grateful for my physical capabilities. At first, I began to appreciate the ability to walk without crutches, then drive, and eventually, the ability to run. I made small improvements every day and every day my future looked brighter and brighter. Retraining my knee to do all the movements that once came naturally was the biggest mental battle that I had to overcome. Thankfully, with a great physical therapist and supportive coaches, my knee injury was only a slight bump in the road to reaching my goals.

During my sophomore year, my softball team had a very successful season and earned a third place finish at the state tournament. After a great season and state tournament performance, I started to gain the interest of college coaches. I even visited a few colleges before junior year started, but none that I was ready to call my home after high school. A few months later, however, I visited the University of Minnesota and called Coach Allister two days later to commit.

UMN's coaching staff had a future vision for the softball program that I knew I wanted to be a part of. The University of Minnesota's beautiful campus and facilities also immediately sold me. As soon as I left campus after my unofficial visit, I knew that the University of Minnesota had everything I was looking for in a college. Growing up in Iowa, I was always surrounded by Big Ten athletics. It was important to me that my parents could come to my games. Fortunately, over half of the Big Ten universities are close to home, giving my family ample opportunity to continue to support me.

During my senior year of high school, I went on an official visit to the U and met all of my future teammates for the first time. While I was nervous to meet everyone, I was at ease once I realized how welcoming they were throughout the weekend. Even after a few days, I noticed the close relationships these girls had with one another off the field. It was comforting to know that these girls would be my family in one short year.

Completing the workouts with the team my first week on campus was a great feeling. All the years of hard work to get here had finally felt like they had paid off. The seniors did an outstanding job of preparing all of us freshman for practices, lifts, and team expectations. The upperclassmen demonstrated the necessity of a great work ethic. While making team expectations clear, they were also very approachable and I knew that I had 16 friends I could count on for anything.

During my first few weeks on campus, I was extremely thankful for Erika Smyth and her roommates. A couple nights each week, I went to their apartment for a home cooked dinner and a place to do homework. It was nice to have a homey place and their great company. On the field this fall, I was thankful for Sam Macken. She was my partner for everything on the field and she took me under her wing and made sure that I knew what to do during each drill. Great teammates on and off the field made my transition to college life an easy one.

The team's success last year made me proud to be committed to the University of Minnesota. While watching them playing online, on TV, or in person, I walked away from every game excited to one day be a part of the team. As a spectator, I noticed how passionate they were about the game by how intensely they played it. The dugout beamed of unselfishness and I could not wait to be teammates with people who cared about one another's success more than their own.

Experiencing my first fall as a Gopher was exhausting, exhilarating, and exciting. During eight-hour weeks, I learned to cherish free time. During 20-hour weeks, I learned to cherish sleep. This fall was a lot of learning and hard work, but after seeing the team receive their Big Ten Championship rings, my determination to receive one of my own is higher than ever.

I cannot wait to see what the 2015 season has in store for Gopher Softball!

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. 33, Ellie Cowger: "Ellie Cowger has been a great addition to our team this fall. Even though she comes from Michigan, she comes from a long line of Gophers! Ellie reminds me of former Gopher Dannie Skrove and fans will enjoy the grit and competitiveness they will see from Ellie this season."
My Gopher Softball journey has been short in comparison to those who have come before me. However, that fact has not hindered my ability to reflect on the four months I have been a member of the Gopher Softball family.

I can start out by saying this: I am blessed. I am lucky to be a part of the University of Minnesota's athletic department and an ambassador of the maroon and gold. I am lucky to put on a Gopher Softball jersey every game day. I am lucky to run shuttles in the indoor football facility every Wednesday morning (if you tell yourself you enjoy them, they're not half bad). I am lucky that practice is the best part of my day and I get to do what feels like an infinite number of push-offs in the outfield grass of Jane Sage Cowles Stadium (and yes...I know there will be many more to come). And finally, I am lucky to be a part of a team of coaches and players who have a contagious desire for excellence and who would do anything in their power to see their players and teammates succeed.

During the last few weeks of the semester when our practice schedule switched from 20 hours a week to eight, I had the opportunity to reflect on how I got to the U. I came to realize many things over that course of time. Most importantly, I was able to pinpoint where my journey began and where it has taken me. So here is my story...

I was born a Golden Gopher. Having both my parents graduate from the school and seeing two out of the three of my older sisters walk on to the Gopher Softball team in 2006 and 2008, the University of Minnesota was the only place my heart could ever be. I didn't quite convince myself of that until I came to campus on a recruiting visit.

When I began the recruiting process my freshman year, I felt like I was in sorry shape. I was in the midst of switching over to left-handed hitting and I had yet to find my place in the field. I pitched in high school, but my heart wasn't really in it. I played infield for my travel team, but that didn't quite feel right either. As a result, I was a softball player who couldn't really swing right handed or left handed and had no idea of my potential in the field. The only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to play college softball and somehow I had to find a way to get there.

Looking back on it now, I can attribute my turning point to three things. I had my parents who encouraged me to never give up on what I wanted most. I had a travel coach who told me my best shot to play Division I, Big Ten softball would be to get my cleats into the outfield. And lastly, I was introduced to a hitting coach who didn't give up on me even when my swing was in shambles.

Over the course of my freshman and sophomore years, my game started to come together. My swing began to not be such a train wreck, I got faster and I was becoming more comfortable in both the infield and the outfield. I drew the attention of a few DII schools and smaller DI schools, but deep down, I knew I wanted to play for Minnesota.

I went to summer softball camp at the U the summer before my junior year and that is where I really got to know the coaches and the culture of the Gopher Softball program. My experience over those three days was something that I knew I wouldn't get anywhere else. Following the camp, Coach Merchant saw me play at Nationals (I'm not sure if she remembers, but the first game she came to, I struck out three times and made an error that let in the winning run for the other team). Coach Merchant, if you are reading this, thank you for giving me a second chance and coming to another game. I appreciate it more than you'll ever know.

Despite my not-so-stellar performance, the coaches eventually invited me to come on an unofficial visit in September. I was set on coming here before I even knew I would be offered a spot on the team. I could tell by watching only 15 minutes of Gopher Softball practice that they all loved where they were at and that their passion for the sport was through the roof. The girls were very friendly and took the time to make sure I felt welcome. At a meeting with the coaches that evening, they offered me a spot in their program and I couldn't say anything but yes.

And here we are, two years later and not a day goes by that I don't take a step back and thank God for where He has brought me. I feel like I am living a dream and I don't think that feeling will go away for the next three and a half years.

But now that I have finished my first semester and we are only 33 days away from the season, I will take the opportunity to look back on those first four months.

I wouldn't call my start a rocky one, but I definitely made a few freshman mistakes. Forgetting my cleats in the locker room on the first day of practice or taking the entire hitting practice to complete a bunting drill that usually only takes two minutes are only two of the more memorable ones.

But if it weren't for those moments, I may not have realized the support system I have behind me. As the only freshman in the outfield this year, I was constantly encouraged and motivated by all of the upperclassman outfielders. While all of the outfielders were instrumental in my transition to college softball, Erica Meyer and Paige Palkovich helped me immensely in center field. I now take the right first step about half the time instead of never and get pelted by a fewer number of sun balls. But on a real note, thank you to both of you for making my first fall a good one.

All of my teammates are more encouraging and hard-working than I ever imagined. There is a reason why they won the Big Ten championship last year. They have the relentless desire for success and the willingness to put in the work it takes to be one of the top teams in the country. It's inspiring and I really should thank them every day for making me want to be not only a better softball player but an all-around better person.

If seeing the 2014 team win the Big Ten Championship in May against a team from my home state wasn't motivating enough, watching the girls receive their Big Ten Championship rings was just one more things that made me want to be a part of something so great. Once again, I am lucky to call each and every one of those girls my teammates and I cannot wait for us to accomplish something just as amazing as they did last season.

I was sitting at breakfast with Erica Meyer and Erika Rozell, the day before I went home for Christmas break. I could honestly tell them that the U was where I was supposed to be and that I wouldn't change anything for the world.

So in conclusion, thank you for reading and may our 2015 be filled with many wins, lots of fun, another Big Ten Championship. I hope you all had a wonderful New Year and I look forward to hopefully seeing a lot of you out at our games this spring!

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. 42, Tyler Walker: "Tyler Walker is a dynamic softball player on both sides of the ball. She's been a mainstay in our lineup the past three years at the top of the order and at short stop. Her speed and power set the tone for our lineup offensively and she has a steady presence on defense."

At the start of my junior year of high school is when I first came into contact with the University of Minnesota. I received a letter in the mail describing the university and its many opportunities as well as details about the softball program. Initially, I was skeptical about the state of Minnesota, but I was repeatedly encouraged by my dad to go on a visit and at least check out the campus and meet the coaches. At this time, I was being recruited by the old coaching staff. I decided to give it a chance!

I went on an unofficial visit to the school and completely fell in love with the campus and was so ready to become a Gopher.

A few months later, I received a heartbreaking call from the Minnesota head coaches at the time, letting me know that it would be their last season coaching the Gophers. After I hung up the phone, I remember being in shock and very nervous on what the future was going to hold for me. So, I went back into the whole recruiting process again.

I visited other schools and found that I kept comparing them to the University of Minnesota. I received a phone call that the new coaching staff at Minnesota wanted me to go on an official visit and I was so beyond excited I can't even put it into words. I arrived on campus during my senior year of high school and once I heard Coach Allister's goals for the program I was completely on board. I wanted to be a part of changing the program around that is why Minnesota so appealing to me as a player. I wanted to be a part of something great.

When I arrived on campus my freshman year, I knew I was in the right place. As soon as I met the other freshmen, we instantly became close and I knew they would become my family. The biggest adjustment I had to make in college was cooking for myself. I am now in my senior year and still haven't really made that adjustment. But, I am a pro at calling in take-out orders and I know every menu in Dinkytown way too well (try the BLT at Loring Pasta Bar if you're ever hungry).

During my freshman year, it felt like I played more softball in one semester then I did my whole life! But honestly freshman year was so awesome. Looking back at it, it was so great because my teammates were (and still are) just genuinely awesome people. Like I said before, we all got along so great and it made living far from home so much easier.

The culture of the program was based on the concept of hard work. Whether in the classroom or on the field, we work hard. The hard work we put in my freshman year on the field and in the classroom helped me understand what it truly meant to be a Minnesota Gopher.

It has been an honor to be a part of this program. I think it is an absolute privilege to be able to wake up every morning and work towards getting better with my team, my family, my sisters. Winning the Big Ten Championship was huge for our program, but what was most amazing to me is that we were two games away from competing in the Women's College World Series - two games. That has been my driving motivation so far this year and wanting to get better every day. We got so close last year but I have full faith that this team is going to get there again and this time we're going to have a different outcome, I 100% believe that.

Until that time comes, we continue to put in hard work in the weight room and on the field. Come February, we'll be ready to go to war.

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