Lentsch establishing herself as soccer’s goal scorer

Freshman Haley Lentsch has scored four goals in as many games this season.

Adam Fink

Haley Lentsch calls her early-season success with Minnesota’s soccer team surprising.

Teammate Amanda McMahon said the freshman always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

And coach Barbara Wickstrand said Lentsch is an excellent finisher.

While answers about Lentsch’s impact at Minnesota thus far come from different people, there is no question she has established herself as the Gophers’ goal scorer.

Through four games this season, Lentsch has notched four of Minnesota’s seven goals. Lentsch’s eight points lead Minnesota (2-1-1).

“I didn’t expect this,” Lentsch said. “I think my confidence is growing.”

As a highly touted recruit out of Stillwater High School, Lentsch joined the Gophers with an impressive soccer resume. Lentsch tallied 15 goals and five assists her senior year in high school.

In addition, the 18-year-old was named to the 2002 all-Suburban East conference team, all-region team and second team all-state.

“She has just been playing awesome,” McMahon said.

One reason for Lentsch’s success is teammates – and fellow forwards – Becky Dellaria and Kaitlin Neary.

The two sophomores have combined for four assists this year.

“Haley is scoring the goals,” Wickstrand said, “but Becky and Kaitlin are doing just as great of a job. They have been making excellent passes.”

As Minnesota heads into its final non-conference game, against Western Illinois on Friday, Wickstrand has been happy the three forwards have developed a solid chemistry.

But as most coaches will say this early in the season, there is always room for improvement and for more players to step it up offensively.

“I like how our forwards are coming along,” Wickstrand said. “We are getting goals and that is what counts.”

Canadian joins Gophers

Kjirsten Sigmund knew after her recruiting visit to Minnesota on Dec. 6 that she wanted to join the Gophers. Five days later, Sigmund verbally committed to the program.

As a native of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Sigmund is the first Canadian to join the Gophers since 2001.

“I basically knew I wanted to come here after I visited,” the 5-foot-7-inch defender said. “I felt like a part of the family right away.”

While Sigmund is the only Canadian on the roster, Wickstrand hopes she is the first of many.

Wickstrand has made a point of recruiting Canadians and has developed a strong relationship with Ryan Clark, the college director for the British Columbia Soccer Association.

The Gophers’ fourth-year coach said recruiting top American prospects has grown difficult because many choose to attend a warmer-climate institution.

“There is an abundance of talent in British Columbia,” Wickstrand said. “I am always going to recruit in the United States, but I hope to continue to bring in more Canadian recruits.”

Sigmund has played in three games and recorded two shots on goal.

Roster moves

The Gophers have used the same starting lineup in all four games this season.

But last weekend, Minnesota moved a handful of players around. Wickstrand wanted to generate more offense against Ohio and wanted to control the midfield against Florida Atlantic.

Forward Kaitlin Neary moved to midfield. Defender Nicki Burnie moved to forward against the Bobcats.

“She did a great job,” Wickstrand said of Burnie.

Against the Eagles, defender Amanda Edwards moved to midfield.

Rotating goaltenders?

Starter Karli Kopietz is the team’s top goaltender and has dramatically improved since the first game, Wickstrand said.

However, Wickstrand considered putting backup Marni Prall in goal during the Ohio game.

Despite wanting to keep both goalies fresh, Wickstrand said as long as Kopietz continues to play well, she will not rotate goaltenders.

In addition, junior goalie Kelly Kraft is out for the season after injuring her knee last spring, which required surgery.