New role puts Stiever in a spot to score

Sophomore Josee Stiever has taken up an offensive midfielder spot.

Ben Gotz

When it comes to the lineup, sophomore midfielder Josee Stiever and the Gophers showed that they’re not afraid to shake things up.

Coming off of a season in which she was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team, Stiever learned that she would be changing roles for her sophomore season, from defensive midfielder to offensive midfielder.

It may seem odd to have Stiever switch positions after a conference-recognized freshman season, but head coach Stefanie Golan said she thinks Stiever’s new role might actually suit her better.

“As a [defensive] midfielder last year, it was more out of necessity than being where she is most comfortable,” Golan said. “She’s most comfortable being an offensive midfielder, being someone who can get involved in the attack.”

And so far, Stiever seems to have no regrets with the position switch.

“Personally, I’ve liked it a lot,” Stiever said. “I’ve played both [midfield] positions and I like both, but I was really excited to move up and get more in the attack this year.”

Golan said Stiever’s new role involves covering more ground and being more aggressive on the offensive end of the field.

Where a defensive midfielder watches more plays develop in front of them, an offensive midfielder is given more freedom to roam around and create scoring opportunities.

“I kind of just [sat] back more defensively and [cleaned] up anything [defenders] needed help with,” Stiever said. “This year, I’m able to get forward more and I have the mentality to score more.”

Through eight games, Stiever is tied for third on the team with six points, just one shy of her total from last season.

Minnesota’s focuses during summer training included controlling possession and scoring more goals. Now, Stiever can help with both aspects in the middle of the field.

“She’s got great athleticism, and she’s very good with the ball,” Golan said. “She’s a kid who more often than not is going to keep possession for you.”

Golan said she hoped pairing Stiever with senior captain Katie Thyken in the attacking midfield would help “provide a spark” for the Gophers’ attack.

Together, the chemistry the two have with the team’s forwards helps fuel the offense.

“I love having her up there,” Thyken said after Minnesota’s victory over Michigan State on Sunday, in which Stiever scored the winning goal. “She really reads the game and the forwards really well, and it helps to have that presence next to me.”

Thyken isn’t the only one who enjoys having Stiever on the attack more, either.

“I was really excited to have her move up closer to me so we can work together,” sophomore forward Simone Kolander said. “This spring, we worked on trying to connect the midfield and the forwards so we had a better relationship and a better connection on the field.”

It’s a connection that seems to have been built by hard work, but Stiever said it’s a connection that has also gotten better through experience.

“I’m a sophomore now, and Simone Kolander, she’s a sophomore too,” Stiever said. “We’ve had a year together, and I’ve gotten to get to know [redshirt junior forward] Taylor Stainbrook a lot better.”

And, just as experience working with teammates is helping improve Stiever’s game, experience in her new role should help her continue to refine and improve her game.

“She’s done great,” Golan said. “She covers a tremendous amount of ground. She’s a ball winner. She does some really nice things for us.”