Fall teams feeding off of one another’s success

At this time last season, the Minnesota soccer team was hovering around .500, the football team was well on its way to its worst season since 1983 and the volleyball team was 9-3, and just more than a week away from the start of a seven-match losing streak. What a difference a year makes. At 10-0, the soccer team is finally starting to receive national recognition, as coach Mikki Denney WrightâÄôs fourth season at Minnesota âÄî her first with all her own recruits âÄî has been nothing but solid. âÄúSheâÄôs kind of designed the program herself,âÄù senior midfielder Clare Grimwood said. âÄúThis is her team. The first couple of seasons were a struggle, but now we have the experience to succeed at this level.âÄù Volleyball (10-2 overall) has also improved immensely, playing with better control of the ball and sweeping former No. 4 California at home. Even the football team (4-0) has generated plenty of excitement, as the defense has allowed 19 fewer points per game and the team has already collected three more wins than it did all of last season. âÄúWeâÄôre all football fans,âÄù volleyball coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúWhen football is doing well, everything else seems to go well. Success breeds more success, and I think people are genuinely appreciative of what all three teams are doing this year.âÄù Those most appreciative however, might be the teams themselves. After struggling through a rebuilding year and trying to learn a new system during football coach Tim BrewsterâÄôs first season, junior wide receiver Eric Decker said this yearâÄôs success is a welcome change. âÄúItâÄôs a lot more fun, youâÄôre a lot more comfortable and more confident in your team,âÄù Decker said. âÄúWith four wins, itâÄôs a lot more exciting to come back to practice each week.âÄù But as relieved as coaches and players are to be on track for successful years, representatives from each sport were quick to admit that it was the off-years last year which helped to make this season possible âÄî without the struggles, the motivation to improve wouldnâÄôt have been at the same level. âÄúGoing through some adversity has really shaped us into different players,âÄù Grimwood said. âÄúIt brings out character and desire, and a lot of different characteristics in us. Yes, it was a struggle. But itâÄôs a positive thing, because we were able to learn from that and apply it to this season.âÄù Hebert echoed GrimwoodâÄôs thoughts. âÄúThereâÄôs no better teacher than going through some adversity,âÄù he said. Along with the changes on the field, there have come changes in how the athletes have carried themselves as well, as the pride in the GophersâÄô fall sports is rising. âÄúItâÄôs not a huge difference,âÄù senior volleyball setter Rachel Hartmann said. âÄúBut even when youâÄôre out with other people you can see that everyoneâÄôs a little bit happier, a little more excited right now. You just get this sense of accomplishment from all of the other teams, as well as ours.âÄù The community has reacted as well, as soccer continues to draw solid crowds, volleyball witnessed a full student section during each of their first two weekends at home and football fans are staying past halftime. But Hebert, who has coached in both smaller college towns and in metro areas, said the real reaction from this seasonâÄôs success is yet to be seen. âÄúWhat IâÄôve noticed about the two metropolitan areas IâÄôve coached in is that people really donâÄôt start getting involved until you start winning. But once they do catch on, it catches on in a much bigger way,âÄù he said. âÄúOnce football wins another game or two, once we get a good foothold in the upper third of the Big Ten, once soccer begins to win games that are perhaps unexpected wins, thatâÄôs when the real excitement occurs,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúMinneapolis is a place where that can happen, and I suspect it will happen if the programs continue to win.âÄù