Taylor Uhl defies class barriers

The highly touted freshman leads the Gophers in scoring this season.

Drew Claussen

For Gophers soccer star Taylor Uhl, the 2011 season has been about adjustments. Fortunately for Minnesota, the on-field adjustment has gone smoothly.

The freshman from Eden Prairie, Minn., has had to adjust to playing college soccer, being in college and like most freshmen, being away from her parents.

âÄúI had to do laundry âÄî that was an adjustment,âÄù Uhl said, laughing. âÄúSoccer-wise I just really like playing with the competition level here.âÄù

Uhl is one of seven freshmen on this yearâÄôs team. She has been dubbed the face of the freshman class after notching 17 points on eight goals (worth two points apiece) and one assist through MinnesotaâÄôs first 13 games.

Uhl has more pressure on her than the others, however, because of her outstanding play in high school. She racked up numerous awards, including Gatorade Player of the Year, 2010 ESPN Rise All American, 2010 Ms. Soccer (Class AA) and 2010 Metro Player of the Year.

She also helped the Eden Prairie Eagles to a state championship last year.

All those high school accomplishments give rise to heightened expectations to perform at the college level, but Uhl said she likes the pressure.

 Uhl chose to attend Minnesota over Stanford, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa State. She cited the GophersâÄô coaching philosophy, the home crowds at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium and academics as the main reasons for her choice.

 âÄúI think sheâÄôs a great fit for our program,âÄù Gophers head coach Mikki Denney Wright said. âÄúSheâÄôs obviously a great player but she also has a ton of potential to grow.âÄù

In her short career, Uhl has already produced several signature games, including one in Michigan on Sept. 23 in which she scored two goals to help the Gophers to a 3-2 win.

âÄúI think sheâÄôs also grown from the beginning of the year,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúWeâÄôre asking a lot from a freshman, but I think sheâÄôs up to the task.âÄù

Denney Wright added that Uhl is learning how to handle physical play, how to defend and how to be dangerous in a variety of ways.

Uhl credits her teammates for her smooth transition to Minnesota.

âÄúIt was really nice because we started our preseason a month before school started,âÄù Uhl said. âÄúThey showed us around and that helped a lot because when the [other] freshmen came in, it kind of felt like we had an upper hand.âÄù

The Gophers are 4-7-2 during UhlâÄôs first year on campus, a record that neither the freshman nor the rest of the team are pleased with.

âÄúI definitely had high expectations,âÄù Uhl said. âÄúI think the rest of the season is going to go a lot better.âÄù

Although Uhl leads the team in scoring, she knows there are parts of her game that she can improve to help the team win more games.

âÄúI think IâÄôve come a long way, but I think I have a long way to go,âÄù Uhl said. âÄúI need to keep improving my game.âÄù

For that to happen, the freshman forward will have to continue to adjust on and off the field.

âÄúThe biggest difference is probably not having your parents there and just being independent,âÄù Uhl said. âÄúNo one is there to pat you on the back when you do something good âÄî itâÄôs kind of all up to you.âÄù