Switch on defense has Kallman picking up right where McCarthy left off

The two have developed a strong and necessary relationship this season.

Nick Gerhardt

It’s certainly not commonplace for upperclassmen to be able to groom their protégés while on the field, but when senior Hailey McCarthy moved to midfield freshman Kylie Kallman stepped in as her replacement in the defense.

McCarthy arrived at Minnesota never having played centerback, but coach Mikki Denney Wright found having her there helped the team.

Before McCarthy arrived, the team had a Big Ten worst 2.38 goals against average. The next year the team posted a 1.43 goals against average.

“In her time our defense has transformed,” Denney Wright said.

McCarthy and her blue-collar approach defense helped form the way the defense looks now even though she no longer patrols the backline.

This season when Denney Wright needed more defensive pressure at midfield she moved McCarthy up and inserted Kallman as McCarthy’s replacement.

The switch has been seamless because of their similar personalities, style of play and McCarthy’s tutelage of Kallman.

“I think Hailey was immediately drawn to Kylie because they share the mentality to persevere,” assistant coach Kate Cortis said.

Besides sharing a few of the same vowels in their names, the two both approach defense with the same attitude.

“We call it laying wood, when they come in to tackle an opponent they want to take them out like an axe chopping wood,” Cortis said.

On the field McCarthy helped teach the Minnesota system to Kallman, the type of the language the team uses to inform each other and how to read plays or runs the other team might attempt to make against the Gophers.

Off the field they watch film together, studying opponents so Kallman can better lead the defense through learning from McCarthy.

“I like playing that role (of mentor),” McCarthy said.

Armed with the knowledge given to her by McCarthy, Kallman has led to a trio of freshmen defenders to the third best goals against average in the conference.

Kallman understands the efforts McCarthy has made in order to transform Minnesota into an outstanding defending team and respects the fact that an upperclassman has offered her help to a freshman.

“It’s definitely some big shoes to fill and a challenge but we’re stepping up and we’re ready for it,” Kallman said.

McCarthy has meant a lot to the Minnesota program as she brought a tenacity and steadiness to the field that Denney Wright appreciates.

“She has a warrior attitude. Everything she takes on, she’s successful in, whether on the field or off the field,” Denney Wright said.

Earlier in the year McCarthy broke Denney Wright’s record of 63 consecutive games played.

Kallman now leads a defense that has looked very strong in recent games.

“She’s incredibly talented and she’s going to be the next generation,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy brought tough defense to the Gophers through her hard work and dedication. She is now passing her wisdom on to Kallman in hopes that it will propel the team to bigger accomplishments.

“I watched it through the hard years,” McCarthy said. “Hopefully she gets to watch it through the golden years.”