Pair of Wisconsin natives lead Gophers into match against Badgers

Defender Nikki Albrecht and midfielder Celina Nummerdor both hail from the Badger State.

Celina Nummerdor handles the ball during the game against DePaul on Thursday, Aug. 30 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Ellen Schmidt

Celina Nummerdor handles the ball during the game against DePaul on Thursday, Aug. 30 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Erik Nelson

Defender Nikki Albrecht and midfielder Celina Nummerdor could have chosen to stay closer to home and play for Wisconsin. Instead, the pair have crossed the border to play for Minnesota.

This weekend will be personal for both Albrecht and Nummerdor, as the Gophers will face the Badgers at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Nummerdor said she attended Badgers soccer camps before coming to Minnesota.

“I know the coaching staff, so it’s going to be a fun game,” Nummerdor said.

It will be an opportunity for Minnesota to exact revenge on its eastern neighbor nearly a year after the teams last played each other. Minnesota lost twice to Wisconsin last season: once during the regular season and then again in the Big Ten quarterfinal.

In the Big Ten quarterfinal on Oct. 29, 2017, Minnesota lost 2-0 to Wisconsin at home on a wet, cloudy Sunday afternoon. The loss eliminated the Gophers from the tournament, preventing the Gophers from defending their Big Ten tournament title from 2016. 

Albrecht said she doesn’t want to hype the matchup more than it needs to be. 

“They are another Big Ten team,” Albrecht said. “You get an extra five to 10 percent energy [rush] just to be able to say, ‘I’m going to go home and I’m going to crush the people that I used to play with when I was younger.’ There’s an extra grit in my game when I get to play against people that I know I’ve played before.”

Last year’s Big Ten quarterfinal loss was the final match in the career of one of Minnesota’s most-prolific goal scorers, Sydney Squires. Squires grew up in Hudson, Wisconsin, just across the river from the Minnesota border.

Head coach Stefanie Golan said adding players from other states benefits the team.

“If we were all from Minnesota, we’d be a bland team on a whole,” Golan said. “You need variety. You need players who bring something different to the table. Different areas of the country bring different styles of the game.”

The Gophers lost to the Badgers in the regular-season match last season on Sept. 16, 2017. The Badgers defeated the Gophers 1-0 in overtime. Wisconsin forward Dani Rhodes scored the golden goal in the 96th minute on a penalty kick, after former Minnesota defender Tori Burnett received a yellow card for a handball in the box.

The Gophers haven’t beaten the Badgers since Oct. 24, 2013. Minnesota won that match 2-1 in double overtime.

Minnesota is currently sixth in the Big Ten. It could potentially play Wisconsin again in the Big Ten quarterfinal this year. Wisconsin is currently third in the Big Ten.

Albrecht said everyone on the Gophers gets hyped before playing Wisconsin.

“We happen to be a state away from them to make it a rivalry,” she said. “It’s always thrilling to say you beat your rival. Every one of these last three [matches] that we have are given. We [need to] come out and play our best Minnesota soccer.”