For forwards, soccer is all in the family

Simone Kolander and Kellie McGahn are first cousins and teammates.

Junior forward Kellie McGahn rushes toward the ball during a home game against Wisconsin on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in St. Paul. Minnesota lost to Wisconsin in overtime 1-0 after both teams went scoreless through the game.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Junior forward Kellie McGahn rushes toward the ball during a home game against Wisconsin on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in St. Paul. Minnesota lost to Wisconsin in overtime 1-0 after both teams went scoreless through the game.

Dominic Davis

Senior forward Simone Kolander and junior forward Kellie McGahn are first cousins who share a best friend-like bond.

“We were really close [growing up together]” Kolander said. “We lived pretty close to each other. Growing up, we would trick or treat together, have sleepovers all the time, after every family gathering and holidays, we were always together.

Kolander and McGahn — being close in age and the only girls — developed a strong relationship early on in their lives.

Their family was active and always played sports outside with their siblings and relatives.

“We used to race all the time,” Kolander said. “I was a year older than [McGahn] so I always thought that I should be faster … For a while there I was winning and then we turned a certain age. Obviously now if you come to a game, Kellie is [very] fast. I can’t beat her anymore, but I remember her beating me. I was like ‘dang.’”

Before both became Gophers, they both played on the same soccer team as kids for a few years.

“It was like being on a team with your best friend and hanging out with them,” McGahn said.

When they got older and both were in high school, they started playing against each other. McGahn went to Eastview High School and Kolander went to Lakeville North High School.

McGahn had always wanted to go to Minnesota, and Kolander’s enrollment the previous year only made that dream better.

“It has always been a dream for me to be a Gopher soccer player,” McGahn said. “[Kolander being here] was almost like the icing on top.”

These two love playing on the same team together. Their chemistry and teamwork on the field is fueled by their relationship off the field.

“We can talk to each other and get through little conflicts on the field,” Kolander said. “We are not afraid to say anything to each other. We can yell at each other essentially and the message gets through; I know she’s not mad at me and I’m not mad at her.”

Associate head coach Krystle Seidel said she notices how their bond also brings the team together.

“Off the field you can kind of feel that closeness,” Seidel said. “When [Kolander and McGahn] are on the bus they are singing songs together. They have a lot of the same jokes. That chemistry kind of feeds into the rest of the group.”

The connection of the two helped McGahn in her transition from high school to college. The two play the same position and Kolander was a resource for McGahn as she learned the college game.

Both are communication studies majors and often help each other off the field with homework.

Though Kolander is in her last season with the Gophers and hopes to pursue a pro career, the two don’t plan to be apart for long. They hope to one day move to California to start their own business together.

“We like to hang out, we like to help people, we’re super organized, we love to plan ahead and we love events,” Kolander said. “Birthday parties, weddings, we love that stuff. If our careers really don’t work out, we’re coming together.”