Gophers plagued by injuries in midfield

Two of the Gophers’ starting midfielders could miss this weekend’s games.

Ben Gotz

The Gophers’ midfield has not been short on success this season. But right now, it may be short on players.

Freshman Rachel McCloskey, who made an impact early on this season, watched her team lose 4-1 to Wisconsin Saturday night from the sideline while propped up by crutches.

During that game, the Gophers saw another starting midfielder and a key team leader, senior Katie Thyken, get hurt.

At that time, it was unknown if Thyken would be able to play next weekend against Maryland and Rutgers, though she was optimistic after the game. The team will play just one of its original starting midfielders if she can’t play.

Thyken would be a painful loss not just for the midfield but for the team — she helps with the team’s organization and communication on the pitch.

“That kid is somebody who gives everything, and she helps everybody else be able to do the same thing by just keeping them aware of what’s going on and keeping us very organized,” head coach Stefanie Golan said.

When Thyken had to leave the game, the Gophers and Badgers were tied 1-1. The Gophers were outscored 3-0 the rest of the game.

“She leads by example with her fight,” Golan said. “We are still looking for someone to step up and fill that void when she’s off the field.”

If Thyken misses a match this weekend, the player who will have the first opportunity to fill in for her will likely be junior Jen Larrick.

Larrick has one goal on the season and has appeared in 11 matches. When Thyken got injured, Larrick substituted in and played the remainder of the match.

While the Gophers may have to worry about replacing Thyken’s leadership and toughness on the field this week, they have already seen a player successfully step into the other midfielder spot.

Senior Taylor Wodnick has started the past two games in place of McCloskey, and she has scored two of the team’s three goals during those games.

One of those goals was a double-overtime game winner at Illinois.

“It’s huge for her, especially now that Rachel’s out of our defensive midfield,” Thyken said.

Thyken said Wodnick has always been ready to contribute to the team. Even before getting the starting nod, Wodnick had appeared in all of the team’s matches.

And after her performance last weekend, Wodnick has three goals — the same number McCloskey had before being injured.

“Just being able to represent my team, it’s a great experience … especially being my last year,” Wodnick said.

Despite starting for the second game in a row, Wodnick was understandably disappointed after the team’s 4-1 loss to Wisconsin. Wodnick and the team will have to push through the injuries this weekend to stay above .500.

“We just have to put it behind us, and we have a really big weekend with Maryland and Rutgers ahead of us,” Wodnick said, referencing the team’s loss to Wisconsin. “We just have to move past it and have a good week of practice.”