Highly recruited Hood in center of Minnesota’s resurgence on the pitch

Emily Wickstrom

The most physical player on Minnesota’s soccer team may have played only 14 college games so far.

During a soccer game, center midfielder Kelsey Hood will often be found getting called for fouls, arguing with the referee or “getting in the heads” of opposing players.

“I’m very passionate,” Hood said. “To put it lightly: When it’s time to play, it’s time to play.”

But Hood is more than just a physical and emotional force for a Minnesota squad standing fourth in the Big Ten a year after finishing 10th.

Gophers coach Mikki Denney Wright said Hood has a chance at being one of Minnesota’s best players ever.

One of the most prized recruits to play for the Gophers, the Ankeny, Iowa, native was a soccerbuzz.com Top-100 recruit and was sought after by teams like Texas, Florida, Kansas and West Virginia.

After finally choosing Minnesota, Hood was immediately thrust into the starting lineup to be the core of a vastly improved midfield.

Probably the player with the best fundamentals on the Gophers squad, Hood has excelled at winning balls in the air and setting up her teammates, as well as giving Minnesota an intimidating physical presence.

“There’s no freshman in the Big Ten that’s making the impact she is in the midfield,” Denney Wright said. “I’ve seen them all. Nobody is.

“The last few weekends, she’s dominated the midfield – and she’s playing against seniors.”

Teammates have taken notice, and said they have started to count on the freshman to control the middle of the field.

“Kelsey has probably been our most consistent midfielder,” senior Kaitlin Neary said. “She’s one of those players that unless you’re looking, you don’t really notice how much effect she’s having on the game.”

Accustomed to being a leader, Hood said she struggled at first with the intensity and competition of Division I soccer.

“I have to be on my game at all times,” she said. “I can’t have a lapse Ö I have to be consistent every game.”

Although Hood said she is pleased with how she has played this season, she said she thinks she has a lot more to show.

One thing Hood said she wants to improve on is her offense, after scoring just one goal and two assists.

Always looking to set up her teammates, Hood has passed on her own scoring opportunities a few times.

“I’m a good attacker, and I haven’t shown that I’m an offensive threat,” Hood said.

But Denney Wright said she thinks Hood will get plenty of opportunities for scoring points as Minnesota continues to improve.

“We haven’t been a dominant enough team to set her free as much in the attack,” Denney Wright said. “As we start to dominate teams rather than survive, she’ll get the presence.”

Although her debut season has been successful, there are some pitfalls that come with being labeled a player who could have her number retired someday.

“There is pressure if I don’t live up to that,” Hood said.

But she did say she is up to the challenge.

“If that happens, awesome. I’m going to work my butt off, so hopefully it does.”