Long-distance recruiting brings in Icelandic player

Freshman Hugrun Friedriksdottir is the Gophers single international player.

Freshman Hugrun Friedriksdottir, midfielder from Iceland,  stands in Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium Sunday morning. Friedriksdottir traveled about 3,000 miles from Iceland to play for the Gophers, however she's having to adjust to the U.S. while recuperating from a recent ACL injury.

Elizabeth Brumley

Freshman Hugrun Friedriksdottir, midfielder from Iceland, stands in Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium Sunday morning. Friedriksdottir traveled about 3,000 miles from Iceland to play for the Gophers, however she’s having to adjust to the U.S. while recuperating from a recent ACL injury.

Kaitlin Merkel

The Gophers usually don’t travel far on recruitment trips. Out of the 26 players on the team, only six are from outside Minnesota and Wisconsin.
 
But one of those six players, freshman midfielder Hugrun Friedriksdottir, traveled about 3,000 miles from Reykjavik, Iceland, to play for Minnesota.
 
Fellow freshman and Gophers forward April Bockin said she is excited to have an international player join her class.
 
“We were excited because a lot of us are from Minnesota and we all knew each other,” Bockin said. “So it was really fun to have someone not only from a different state but from a different country.”
 
A key connection from Minnesota head coach Stefanie Golan’s college days at Duke University helped the team discover Friedriksdottir.
 
Golan said during her junior season at Duke, freshman goalkeeper Thora Helgadottir joined the team from Iceland, where she had played with the Icelandic national team.
 
Now at Minnesota, Golan said she received two calls last year about Friedriksdottir, one being from Helgadottir.
 
While Golan said she is usually skeptical of recruiting solely based on film, she trusted Helgadottir’s judgment.
 
“Thora has been the national team goalkeeper, has been playing professionally since she graduated,” Golan said. “She knows the caliber of player that can compete at the level that we’re at.”
 
Golan and the Minnesota coaching staff were never able to fly to Iceland to meet or watch Friedriksdottir play due to time constraints. This meant the majority of the recruitment process was done over Skype from Minnesota to Iceland.
 
“It was through Thora and watching a lot of film and developing the relationship over Skype,” Golan said. “It’s me, and her and her dad on the other side. We talked through everything, and she came out and visited and loved it. So we said ‘Let’s do it.’ ”
 
Friedriksdottir said there are a few differences in the style of the game in the United States versus in Iceland.
 
“[In Icleand], they’re more relaxed and play the ball a little bit more,” Friedriksdottir said. “But here, I think they are way better in corner kicks. A lot of goals come from corner kicks and free kicks. They’re way better here at heading and [playing the ball] in the air.”
 
The Gophers won’t get the chance to see Friedriksdottir in action on the pitch this season, as she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee in June and had surgery in early July.
 
Golan said the surgery has about a six- to nine-month recovery time and that she hopes to have her new midfielder back by the second half of the spring season.
 
Friedriksdottir said her favorite part of the game is attacking, and Golan compared her to the team’s second-leading point scorer last year.
 
“I would describe her as a similar player to [Minnesota junior midfielder Josee Stiever] in terms of being a dynamic, attacking-type player who can score goals, who can set up goals and just has a very natural feel for the game,” Golan said.
 
Friedriksdottir, who started learning English when she was 12, said she is excited her family is coming from Iceland to visit in October. She added she found her second family in Minnesota.
 
“It just feels like home, and it feels like you’ve known these people forever,” Friedriksdottir said. “It’s just one big family.”