Heading into their first road games and last non-conference series, the Gophers kickers are planning to clean up their game and add some wins to their record before the Big Ten opener against Iowa next Friday.
Despite fighting for a physical 1-0 win against Iowa State last Sunday, coach Barbara Wickstrand saw much room for improvement, saying the game did not reflect her new offensive strategy.
As Minnesota takes on Detroit-Mercy and Montana this weekend at Northwestern, Wickstrand is hoping to improve the Gophers long-lost offensive game while bettering their NCAA standing.
“We need to continue to play aggressively, shoot more and more each game and be consistent about getting better shots,” Wickstrand said.
“Our upcoming games are going to be a challenge but not any top 20 teams, and we need to play as if they are.”
Practice since the Iowa State game has emphasized the areas Wickstrand found disappointing last weekend: changing the point of attack, checking runs, finishing, shooting, and attacking and defending as a team.
But Wickstrand isn’t relying solely on a new strategy to motivate her team to a winning series this weekend. With only two seniors on the team, Wickstrand has spread the leadership role down to several juniors as well.
“To be honest our main leaders are seniors Erin Holland and Laurie Seidl but we also have juniors Julie Eibensteiner and Samantha Meyers,” Wickstrand said.
“Alison Rackley has really picked up the middle and done well for us and will hopefully break through the ice.”
Co-captain Holland, a midfielder who has started all but one game the past two seasons, knows she and fellow senior Seidl carry some extra responsibilities.
“I know what coach expects, and she expects a lot from her players,” Holland said.
“She wants us winning the ball and keeping it in their end, more movement in the offensive zone and just winning their balls.”
Another staple of Wickstrand’s agenda is a consistent mentality of all teams being equal despite their ranking.
While neither Montana or Detroit-Mercy are of the same caliber as earlier opponents like North Carolina and Nebraska, Wickstrand sees no reason to bring down their quality of play, and Holland says the team understands this philosophy.
“We have to know our level of play is up there and not drop our level when playing a team less talented. Consistency is important.”
Monica Wright covers soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]