Gophers soccer completes coaching staff, returns to campus with new style

The Gophers’ soccer team has established a leadership group to guide the team during voluntary workouts.

Gophers April Bockin, Emily Peterson and Molly Fiedler celebrate a penalty kick scored by Bockin at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.

Jack Rodgers

Gophers April Bockin, Emily Peterson and Molly Fiedler celebrate a penalty kick scored by Bockin at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.

by Julianna Landis

Makenzie Langdok’s return to the field for her senior season with the Gophers’ soccer team looks much different from years past. 

The team is starting training and captains’ practices a month later than usual, and the procedures have changed. The team is returning in two shifts, preceded by rounds of coronavirus testing and isolation before eventually being cleared for workouts. 

Langdok was part of the first half of the team that returned to campus on June 26, and the return has not been business as usual. Everything looks a little different. 

“We usually have different times that we can go in to work out with Corey [Petersen], usually a 6 a.m. group and an 8 a.m. group, and then we go to the field later in the day and do captains’ [practice],” Langdok said. “And now with all of this, we have to do everything at once because there’s certain protocols we have to do when we get to the field or to any facility. So we just do everything right away in the morning.” 

While this year has understandably been altered, positives have come from the lockdown as well. The team discussed what it wanted to look like in the coming season, specifically whether it would want to have designated captains. 

Initially, the team selected six players: Langdok, Athena Kuehn, Delaney Stekr, Celina Nummerdor and Katie Duong, who would serve the team as part of a newly established leadership group. The team eventually designated captains within the group — Langdok, Kuehn and Nummerdor — to provide an extra level of clarity, especially to incoming freshmen and during games, Langdok explained. 

The newly founded leadership group has been hard at work since the team has returned to campus. Since the workouts are voluntary, head coach Stefanie Golan isn’t able to be on the field coaching her players per NCAA rules. Having the leadership group there to lead the team makes a huge difference.

“That leadership group is taking it very seriously, and they have no problem holding people accountable, but they also have no problem extending a hand and pulling people up to the standard … this group is a really good mix of experience, a really good mix of personality,” Golan said. 

In addition to establishing the leadership group, the team completed its coaching staff with the addition of Maya Hayes as assistant coach. Langdok is optimistic about what she will be able to bring to the team, saying she brings a goal-scoring mentality the team was lacking last season. 

Hayes has an impressive resume both as a coach and a player, getting her start at Penn State. In her career with the Nittany Lions, she was four-year starter and a three-time All-American, and she set Penn State’s single-season points record with 70 in the 2011 season. In 2014, Hayes was selected sixth overall in the NWSL draft by Sky Blue FC, where she played for four seasons. 

Before joining the staff at Minnesota, she served as a graduate assistant coach at Auburn for two seasons while pursuing a master’s degree in adult education. 

Golan said Hayes stood out in the hiring process because of her experience, particularly on the offensive end. 

“I wanted to bring in somebody that was going to add something to the attacking side of the goal, and with her experience … she has the respect of the student-athletes even before she stepped on the field with them,” Golan said.

In a statement, Hayes said she is impressed with the way student-athletes at Minnesota are so well supported both in athletics and in the classroom and she is proud to be joining the staff alongside Golan. 

“[Golan] has built such an elite program with a strong emphasis on team culture and a winning mentality, and I’m excited to be joining such a great staff and group of young women,” said Hayes. “I am looking forward to getting started and being able to contribute to the future success of Minnesota women’s soccer.”