Seven out, seven in: Minn. refills all holes left by departing seniors

The Gophers’ incoming freshman class includes Minnesota’s Ms. Soccer

Andrew Baker

The 2010 soccer season was one of the most successful ever for the Gophers womenâÄôs team, which made the Sweet 16 for the second time in team history, not to mention the second time in the last three years.

But 2010 was also the last hurrah for seven of the teamâÄôs seniors, making a solid 2011 recruiting class all but essential for another run next season.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that, by default, losing that many seniors would make 2011 a rebuilding year.

Gophers coach Mikki Denney Wright had a different take.

âÄúHopefully weâÄôre to the point where we donâÄôt have to rebuild,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúWe want to just reload.âÄù

Reload they did, signing seven recruits âÄî one for every departing senior âÄî for next year, including the Pioneer Press player of the year and Taylor Uhl, MinnesotaâÄôs 2010 Ms. Soccer and the Star Tribune player of the year.

Uhl, an Eden Prairie High School senior, partnered with teammate and fellow Gopher recruit Kathleen Thyken to lead Eden Prairie to an undefeated season and the 2010 state title.

âÄúIâÄôve been playing with Taylor since I was 8,âÄù Thyken said, âÄúso we kind of know each other a little bit.âÄù

The pairâÄôs high school coach, Tony Bidwell, said Thyken and Uhl have contrasting, complementary styles of play, which he thinks will benefit the Gophers immediately.

âÄúKatie and Taylor are two of the best players in the state as far as IâÄôm concerned,âÄù Bidwell said. âÄúI think they both bring attributes that are going to be fantastic assets to the development of a team next year thatâÄôs looking to replace several departing seniors.âÄù

While Uhl is projected to play forward for the Gophers and is known primarily as a goal scorer, Bidwell said Thyken âÄúcould probably play anywhere on the pitch.âÄù

Denney Wright said Thyken will likely start as a defender.

Thyken and Uhl are not the only standouts in the GophersâÄô 2011 class.

âÄúItâÄôs a really deep year in Minnesota, which is great,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúThatâÄôs one of our pipelines. [This is] one of the best years as far as depth weâÄôve seen in the state. These are the kids we targeted early on and luckily we got them all.âÄù

One of those is Centennial High SchoolâÄôs Becca Roberts, who led the Cougars to three Northwest Suburban Conference titles and a berth in the 2009 state tournament.

âÄú[Roberts] is a player we see battling for a starting spot immediately,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúSheâÄôs a back, and I think she fits perfect into the mold of what we look for in our backs âĦ I think sheâÄôll be an incredible impact player.âÄù

Denney Wright said she sees no reason why Thyken, Uhl and Roberts, along with the other four incoming freshmen, canâÄôt contribute to the team right away.

âÄúIn soccer, itâÄôs not like football where you redshirt freshmen and things like that. They have to [make an] impact right away for us to have the season we want to have âĦ I certainly hope that all of them will push for a starting spot.âÄù