After capturing a share of the Big Ten Conference regular season title less than a week ago, the accolades continue to roll in for the No. 21 University of Minnesota women’s soccer program this week as the conference announced its All-Big Ten award winners.
Senior midfielder Kelsey Hood (Ankeny, Iowa) headlined the list of Minnesota honorees as she was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Hood is the first Big Ten defensive player of the year in school history and is the first player of the year of any kind since Jennifer McElmury was the conference’s honoree in 1997. A physical defender who has carved out a reputation as one of the best ball-winners in the country, Hood also collected first team All-Big Ten honors as a midfielder.
After leading the team to twice as many victories this season as last and tying a school record with 18 wins, head coach Mikki Denney Wright was named Big Ten Coach of the Year. Denney Wright and the Minnesota coaching staff has led the team this season to a school record 18 wins and the Gophers’ 18-2-0 record represents the best winning percentage of any Big Ten program.
In just her fifth season at the helm of Minnesota Soccer, Denney Wright has revitalized a program that had struggled prior to her tenure. Committed to a philosophy of recruiting the best homegrown players as well as athletes with outstanding character on and off the field, Denney Wright and her coaching staff have the program poised for its first NCAA Tournament run in nearly a decade.
Joining Hood on the first team is sophomore defender Jennie Clark (Norfolk, Iowa). Clark has been a force to be reckoned with playing in the center of the Gophers’ three-back system this fall. A balanced player who is known for her athleticism and excellent fundamental play, Clark was also named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week the week of Sept. 8.
Hood, Clark and their Gopher teammates have played stifling defense up and down the pitch this season, helping the team to one of the most statistically significant defensive seasons in Big Ten history. Anchored by Hood in the center of the midfield, Minnesota allowed just seven goals in 20 regular season matches. The team boasts a 0.344 goals against average entering the postseason. The mark leads the Big Ten and ranks third in the nation behind perennial powerhouses UCLA (0.162) and Portland (0.234).
Senior striker Lindsey Schwartz (Bettendorf, Iowa) was named to the All-Big Ten second team as a forward. Schwartz is the Gophers’ leading scorer this season with 16 points (six goals, four assists). The senior has been most effective when the game is on the line this season. Five of her six goals have been game-winners and two of her assists have come on game-winning tallies. Schwartz is just one game-winning goal away from tying the school record for game-winners in a single season.
In her four years at Minnesota, Schwartz has seen her name move up the record books, ranking among the top ten in Minnesota history in almost every offensive category. She currently boasts 69 points (8th in school history), 26 goals (7th), 17 assists (8th), 10 game-winning goals (t-5th) and 257 shots (4th) while starting each of her 77 career games.
Goalkeeper Lindsey Dare (Apple Valley, Minn.) also collects second team All-Big Ten laurels. As the bookend for the Gophers’ dynamic defensive effort this season, the athletic senior has vaulted up Minnesota Soccer and Big Ten record books on the strength of her historic performance this season. Having played every minute of every match for Minnesota this season, Dare’s 0.344 goals against average (GAA) this season is well ahead of the Minnesota school record of 0.84 set by Molly Schneider in 2005. Dare’s 15 shutouts this season are a single-season program record. With just one more shutout this season, she would break the all-time Big Ten conference record for goalkeeper shutouts in a season, a mark currently held by Penn State’s Emily Oleksiuk (15.4) set in 2000. Dare was also named one of eleven Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honorees.
Freshman forward Tamara Strahota (Burnsville, Minn.) has come on strong of late and was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team. She has tallied game-winning scores in each of Minnesota’s last two wins. Strahota ranks third on the team with 12 points and is tied with teammate Schwartz for the team-lead with five game-winning goals.
2008 All-Big Ten Awards
Coach of the Year Mikki Denney Wright
Defensive Player of the Year Kelsey Hood
First Team Jennie Clark, So. (D)
First Team Kelsey Hood, Sr. (M)
Second Team Lindsey Schwartz, Sr. (F)
Second Team Lindsey Dare, Sr. (GK)
Freshman Team Tamara Strahota, Fr. (F)
*The All-Big Ten team is selected by the Big Ten head coaches. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players.