Gernes provides scoring threat off the bench for the Gophers

The senior ranks second in goals despite only starting three matches.

Senior forward Julianna Gernes dribbles up the field on Nov. 4, 2016 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Chris Dang

Senior forward Julianna Gernes dribbles up the field on Nov. 4, 2016 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Erik Nelson

Forward Julianna Gernes has played in all 10 of Minnesota’s matches this season, but she has started in only three of them.

Even in the role as a substitute, Gernes ranks second on the team in goals with five. The senior said her success coming off the bench comes from paying close attention to the action.

“It’s part of reading the game and understanding what’s going on, watching what the starters are doing and being able to see space and see where the other team has weaknesses,” Gernes said.

Gernes has scored three times in the last two matches, including a go-ahead goal against Michigan on Sept. 21 when she received the ball in the box off a backheel pass, and rocketed a shot past the goalkeeper.

Head coach Stefanie Golan said Gernes has been effective offensively and does a good job monitoring opponents.

“As we put her into a game, we talk to her about the different things that she can bring to each game,” Golan said. “Depending on what we’re seeing, to turn the tide and continue to put pressure on.”

In her sophomore season, Gernes scored just two goals in 17 matches played. She won the team’s most-improved player award when she scored six goals in 23 matches played the following season.

Gernes said she looks up to three of Minnesota’s starting forwards, including Sydney Squires. However, she was also inspired by two former Gophers — Simone Kolander and Josee Stiever. Both Kolander and Stiever play professional soccer overseas now.

“It was really cool watching [Stiever and Kolander] because they were awesome attacking players,” Gernes said. “They’re professional [players], now. I got to play under them and learn from them.”

Midfielder Molly Fiedler said she formed a connection with Gernes and understands her tendencies.

“I know she’s going to make a run. She’s going to call for it,” Fiedler said. “If I play her the ball, I know she’ll get there and do something great with it.”

The team averaged 2.1 goals per match last year, and this year, they have topped that margin so far with 2.5 goals per match. Golan said she is lucky to have Gernes come off the bench when she needs her.

“You need people who are going to come off the bench and raise the level,” Golan said. “To have somebody who can actually step it up and be dangerous the way that she’s been able to do is a huge asset.”