Roth gets her kicks for Gophers soccer

by Anthony Maggio

Rachael Roth has always stood out on the soccer field. At first, she was the little girl with the big bow in her hair.

From her first day of kindergarten when her mom made her wear the bow to school until her junior high years, anyone could pick out Roth because of the big bows she wore.

“My mom put it in and I asked, ‘Why do I have to wear this?’ ” Roth said of her first day of school. “She said, ‘If you don’t wear it you’re not a girl.’ So I went in and no other girls had them. I told her none of the other girls had them. And she said, ‘Maybe they’re not girls.’ I was like Ö OK Ö.”

These days, Roth no longer sports the bow but has a more well-known calling card – one of the most dangerous forwards in the Big Ten.

As a sophomore last season, Roth scored seven of Minnesota’s nine goals and assisted on the other two.

This year, she is currently tied for second in the Big Ten with 10 goals, one behind Penn State’s Heidi Drummond. Roth’s 10 tallies make up 53 percent of the Gophers’ goal output this season. In addition, her three assists tie Roth for the team lead.

Roth’s success is no surprise. She fell in love with the game and dreamed of playing professional soccer since she first joined a team at the age of five.

“I love the rush of playing,” Roth said. “I love getting dirty or beating someone and making them look stupid. I just love it. It’s just so much fun for me.”

Roth, a Medina native and Wayzata High School graduate, participated in soccer year-round growing up. She played on school and club teams and participated for three years in the Minnesota Olympic Development Program.

In junior high, she joined current Gopher teammates Amanda McMahon and Kyndra Hesse on a club team.

“The first thing I knew about her was that she was a scrappy little player that talked a lot of trash,” McMahon said.

“Then she came to the team and was really quiet, but then on the field she just turned into an animal.”

The three have played club ball together since then and last summer were on the team that won nationals in Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, the club success Roth has enjoyed hasn’t come at the collegiate level. For the past two seasons, Roth has been the lone bright spot on a Minnesota team which has won only four of its last 19 Big Ten games.

Roth said she doesn’t like all of the recognition and sometimes feels frustrated by being the do-it-all player, especially last season.

“She’s targeted, she gets double teamed,” coach Barbara Wickstrand said. “But she puts pressure on herself and she thrives on it. You have to appreciate that in a forward.”

Roth’s athleticism is evident at first glance, while her explosiveness and pinpoint accuracy give defenses fits.

She has an aura of confidence thick enough to cut, and her swagger came out in true form when she did ‘the worm’ after scoring her first of three goals against then No. 14 Michigan.

And let’s not forget the shirt-tugging, hip-checking and other physical play she learned from playing against boys growing up.

“I like it because I have three brothers and I’m used to that,” Roth said. “I got picked on all the time and beat up. It’s kind of fun that you can do that; I wouldn’t want to play a little prissy sport where you can’t touch the person.”

Last Sunday, the University organized Rachael Roth day – a ceremony at halftime of the Ohio State game to recognize her many accomplishments.

Her family, friends, former coaches, the mayor of Medina and athletics director Joel Maturi were among those present to honor Roth.

The ceremony allowed Roth to look back at her success thus far at Minnesota.

“I don’t always like the spotlight,” Roth said. “But it was really cool to see that I have that support from my family and all the other people that have helped me on my journey.”

Roth knows she will be involved with soccer throughout her life but hopes her journey continues through college and into the WUSA.

Who knew so much could come from the little girl with the big bow?

Anthony Maggio covers soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]