Aug. 13, 2012
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The University of Minnesota women's soccer team, who is celebrating its 20th year anniversary this fall, is embarking on unfamiliar waters as the head coaching reigns switch hands from Mikki Denney Wright, who resigned to devote more time to her family, to former Army head coach Stefanie Golan. Despite the coaching change, the Golden Gophers are poised for a big year with nine starters returning along with the return of fifth-year senior Tamara Strahota, who sat out all of the 2011 season due to a leg injury.
Golan, who was named head coach on June 27, spent the past three seasons as the head coach at Army, where she led the program to a 33-18-10 overall record and guided them to their second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2011. The St. Louis, Mo. native has proven to be a defensive mastermind as a head coach, with the Black Knights recording 38 total shutouts the past three seasons. Army has also ranked Top 10 in the NCAA the past two years in shutout percentage, goals against average and save percentage.
The first-year coach will have much to work with as she inherits an experienced squad that went 9-10-2 last fall. From that 2011 team, 13 letterwinners return to the roster, including nine starters. Accompanying those 13 returners will be six talented freshmen and former Gopher basketball standout Jackie Voigt, who exhausted her eligibility on the hardwood but has signed up to play goalkeeper this fall.
Possibly the most notable returner is sophomore Taylor Uhl, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a second team, All-Freshman team member by Soccer America. Uhl had an outstanding freshman campaign as she tallied 15 goals and four assists. The Eden Prairie, Minn. native also recorded two hat tricks during the 2011 season.
Other notable players are defender Tamara Strahota and goalkeeper Cat Parkhill. Both are coming off leg injuries and are expected to play huge roles in helping the Gophers improve on last season's 9-10-2 record. Strahota, who sat out last fall, notched 17 points in 2010 and looks to reach those same marks in 2012. Parkhill has been labeled as one of the top goalies in the country with having a career goal-against average of 0.93 and posting 20 shutouts in her three years as a Gopher. After battling injuries most of 2011, the redshirt senior hopes to anchor the Gopher defense and showcase her best season yet.
The experience on this year's roster is much needed as the Maroon & Gold prepare for arguably their toughest schedule in program history. The Golden Gophers schedule features 12 home games, which is the most regular-season home games in program history, and seven road tests. Minnesota will face a total of five opponents that reached the NCAA Tournament last season.
The Golden Gophers kickoff the 2012 season on August 17 at 7 p.m. as they welcome NCAA College Cup participant Florida State to Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. The Friday nightcap will be followed with a Sunday afternoon match at ELR Stadium against Southeastern Conference Champion, South Carolina.
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