McCarthy’s play helps improved defense

Paul Cordes

In her third game this year, junior defender Hailey McCarthy earned her first yellow card of the season as she took down an opponent in the heat of play.

Her “hard and rough” style of play has taken the once abysmal Gophers defense and turned it into one of the conference and nation’s best.

McCarthy has contributed to the massive improvement of Minnesota’s defense by helping to bring the Gophers’ Big Ten-worst 2.38 goals against average in 2003 to 0.98 this season.

Before the uncharacteristic performance of the Minnesota defense against Wisconsin in a 5-1 loss, the Gophers were 30th in the nation with a GAA of 0.59.

McCarthy said that so far she is pleased with her play and most importantly, she is happy to be playing well on a consistent basis.

Not only is she playing consistently but aggressively as well. Coach Mikki Denney Wright spoke of the junior defender as a tough player.

“She is mentally tough and is also extremely tough physically as well,” she said. “She just shows up to compete and everybody around her knows that if they are going to go up against her, they’ll have to compete just as hard.”

McCarthy calls her aggressiveness part of her “West Coast style of play.”

“I think each part of the country has a different style of play,” she said. “Around Minnesota it’s a lot about finesse and I like bringing some of the hard and rough approach.”

That physical style of play earned McCarthy four years on the all-conference team and all-state honors as a senior in high school. Although never recruited by Denney Wright, because they both had their first season with the team in 2004, she soon realized she had something special in McCarthy.

So far this season, and throughout her play at Minnesota, Denney Wright has been impressed with the effort and results from her leading defender.

“Hailey plays an important position in our back line,” Wright said. “She’s really helped our team become a defensive leader in the Big Ten not only through her play but through her leadership.”

Leadership has almost been mandatory for McCarthy, being the oldest starter on the team this year. According to freshman defender Lyndsey Mueller, McCarthy is someone who leads by example, but isn’t afraid to be vocal when need be.

“She definitely leads by example, just by the work ethic that she shows up with everyday,” she said. “She also makes sure that we are sticking together as a team and working hard.”

As a captain and the player with the most college experience under her belt, Denney Wright said she sees McCarthy as one who plays both roles of a leader in her ability to lead by example and through her words.

McCarthy doesn’t have the benefit of being able to point to her statistics as a way of proving her success, as she has taken a total of 13 shots her entire career. However, the fact that she has started every single game of her college career, 49 to be exact, shows just how much confidence her coaches have in her.

Denney Wright said she believes the fact that McCarthy has started every game is solely because of her hard work. Sophomore defender Carlie Edwards said that McCarthy has the intensity and shows the extra effort to get her on the field.

“Hailey brings her ‘A’ game to every practice and every game,” she said. “She not only shows that on the field but she shows it off the field too.”

And when Edwards says off the field, she’s referring to the success McCarthy has found in her academics. McCarthy has been successful in the classroom as well as on the soccer field.

As a student in the Carlson School of Management, she has found a way to maintain a 4.0 grade point average. Denney Wright called the feat “insane.”

“If you didn’t know Hailey, and you just met her, she might come across as this aggressive and tough kid,” Denney Wright said. “And you wouldn’t realize she was such a strong academic student. It’s just another example of her hard work and effort.”

McCarthy has been a pivotal player in the Gophers’ lineup for the past 2 1/2 seasons and she said that she plans on working to get better and continue to improve.

“I want to train hard and be physical,” she said. “I just want to stay consistent as a player and hopefully I’ll be able to continue my success.”