Senior Kolander leads on and off the field

The captain has scored more goals than Minnesota has allowed.

Gophers forward Simone Kolander drives the ball against Purdue at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Sept. 25, 2015.

Alex Tuthill-Preus, Daily File Photo

Gophers forward Simone Kolander drives the ball against Purdue at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Sept. 25, 2015.

Dominic Davis

Minnesota senior forward Simone Kolander is leading the Big Ten in goals going into the weekend match against Wisconsin, but she’s been proving to be a leader for the Gophers far beyond the numbers on the scoresheet.

Kolander’s athletic ability and determination are big reasons why she has become a great forward for Minnesota.

“Her height and her length [make her unique compared to other forwards],” said associate head coach Krystle Seidel. “One of her biggest strengths is that she has incredible endurance.”

Kolander’s potential was evident to Seidel early on. Seidel said it didn’t matter if she was playing soccer or basketball, Kolander showed she was tenacious and hungry to make big plays.

Kolander puts up a lot of minutes for the Gophers but is still able to play at a high level every time she’s on the field.

Her teammates said the forward doesn’t just walk the walk, she also sets an example for her teammates through her confidence.

“Her ability to take people on 1v1 and combine with other players too like Kellie [McGahn] or April [Bockin] on the sideline; it’s just fun to watch because you can really see the confidence when she plays,” said senior goalie Mara Dougherty.

Though she’s been a leader for Minnesota since she started, this year is bigger for Kolander off the field.

The senior captain is focused on leadership and coaches and teammates say it is probably her greatest quality.

“What she does for our team is not just in the stats,” Seidel said. “Certainly, the goal scoring is a huge deal now for the second year in a row, but she’s our captain. She’s one of our big leaders. She’s one of our best communicators. She’s a problem solver. She brings the team together.”

Kolander was named Big Ten Forward of the Year in 2015 and seems to be on track to win the award in 2016, but she’s mostly turned her attention to what her team can do as a whole.

Kolander leads the Gophers in goals with nine, more than Minnesota has allowed total. She has tallied four assists, but she credits the team’s ability as a unit for the offensive progress.

“Having so many attacking options makes our team more dangerous as a whole,” said Kolander. “The offensive threats come from everywhere, and it changes every game.”

The team hasn’t won a Big Ten title in Kolander’s time at Minnesota, but that goal might be in sight this season.

The Gophers have yet to lose a Big Ten match and could make a bigger run at the NCAA tournament, where the team fell in the second round last year.

With her college soccer career nearing its end, Kolander has also thought about the legacy she’d like to leave behind at Minnesota.

“I want my teammates to remember me as someone who was always encouraging and brought other players along with me,” Kolander said. “I want them to remember me as always really open and helping them to get better and always pushing myself to get better.