Healthy again, Bethke leading Minnesota offense

After a quiet 2008, the junior is making waves in the Big Ten.

Brittany Storoz

Nicknamed âÄúBoneâÄù because of her slender frame, junior forward Katie Bethke hasnâÄôt let her small stature keep her from making big plays. With her creative playmaking and deft skills on the ball, Bethke has posted 11 goals and four assists for 26 points so far this season. In collegiate soccer statistics, goals are worth two points and assists are worth one. âÄúSheâÄôs not the biggest player on the field, but sheâÄôs just so fearless,âÄù head coach Mikki Denney Wright said. While in high school, Bethke had also busied herself with basketball and cross country, but it was soccer that stuck after graduation. MinnesotaâÄôs underdog reputation was attractive and ultimately brought Bethke to the Gophers. âÄúAt the time, Minnesota was trying to build a national championship program from new coaches,âÄù Bethke said. âÄúA growing program and a building team is a really great experience to be a part of.âÄù Bethke made her mark early, starting every game as a true freshman. She tallied five goals and 10 assists for 20 points, good for second behind then-junior Lindsey Schwartz. Prior to her sophomore season, Bethke battled with mononucleosis and an ankle injury. She sat out three games and finished the season with just 10 points after four goals and two assists . She also had difficulty making plays âÄî her shots on goal decreased by almost a third. Though 2008 wasnâÄôt BethkeâÄôs best year in terms of statistics, Minnesota went on to its best season in school history, which included a share of the Big Ten title. âÄúIt was such a great feeling, but it was very nerve-racking as well, because part of it wasnâÄôt in our hands,âÄù Bethke said. âÄúWe had to rely on other teams to win, and things came through on our end because we worked so hard for it.âÄù After graduating six starting seniors who led the Gophers to their record-breaking success last year, Minnesota was left needing the remaining veterans to step up in 2009. Bethke has done just that, more than doubling her total career goals, leading MinnesotaâÄôs offensive production and proving to be exceptionally dangerous in the Big Ten. Bethke had no game-winning goals in her first two years with the Gophers; sheâÄôs scored three in 2009 , one of which came against Big Ten rival Wisconsin with just one minute and 54 seconds left in overtime. This, paired with her offensive barrage against South Dakota in which she scored a career-high four goals , earned her Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week earlier this month. Denney Wright attributes BethkeâÄôs success to her fearlessness and persistence, but Bethke also has a number of pregame rituals up her sleeve. Of course, the fans and the media will never know them; she keeps her routine secret for fear of jinxing herself. âÄúI think the neat thing about Bone is she will obviously put the team on her back and get scores, but she makes our entire team better players as well,âÄù Denney Wright said.