Gophers need bounce-back weekend

Minnesota has had both on-field and off-field success early this season.

Minnesota defender Taylor Stainbrook tries to get the ball from Louisiana State on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie stadium.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota defender Taylor Stainbrook tries to get the ball from Louisiana State on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie stadium.

Jace Frederick

The Gophers soccer team has experienced success on the field early this season, and it seems to be enjoying itself off the field as well.

Senior forward Steph Brandt thinks there’s a correlation there.

“Overall, chemistry seems better,” she said. “I think off-the-field [camaraderie] is transferring into on-the-field [success].”

The improved chemistry so early in the season may be surprising for a team with 12 new faces — eight freshmen and four transfers.

“We get along very well — very little drama,” Brandt said.

Junior midfielder Katie Thyken said the Gophers had a geographic advantage when coming together as a group in the offseason. The Gophers’ roster features 18 players from Minnesota.

Thyken said proximity to one another allowed the Gophers to hold captains’ practice throughout the summer.

“That helps a lot,” she said Aug. 30. “We had that extra opportunity to get to know each other, get to know each other’s play.”

That early construction of relationships helped the Gophers get off to a hot start, winning their first six games of the season.

Sophomore Kristen Knutson said the culture between the three keepers is different than it was last season, too.

“We’re trying to build a culture based on support,” Knutson said Sept. 4. “We celebrated each other’s goals, and we celebrate successes that we all accomplish.”

Brandt said the team is driven by everyone’s on-field effort.

“Everybody’s out there working so hard, and I feel like we feed off each other for that,” she said, “just to see each other giving their all.”

Now, as the Gophers head into two crucial Big Ten battles in Michigan this weekend, the group must remain together as it attempts to climb the conference ladder.

As they advance through the season, the chemistry should only improve.

“[We’re] clicking with each other,” Brandt said. “And as we get into the season more, we’re finding where each other is going and where we’ll be.”