Veterans using experience to help show young team the road to success

Minnesota’s senior class helped the Gophers win against Indiana on Sunday.

Emily Wickstrom

The freshmen on Minnesota’s soccer team this year have been getting all the attention.

But it might be hard to ignore the seniors by the end of the season.

Although the freshmen class has been very productive in terms of offense – accounting for 32 of the Gophers’ 42 scoring points – it was the seniors who directed Minnesota to its first Big Ten win Sunday against Indiana.

That leadership will be very important as the Gophers approach the heart of the conference season.

“Our seniors really came through and led us,” Gophers coach Mikki Denney Wright said after Sunday’s game.

“They were unbelievable -they wanted it and helped lead the way for everyone else.”

Kaitlin Neary almost single-handedly lifted Minnesota over Indiana when she was substituted into the midfield at the end of the first half. She registered three shots and the game-winning goal.

Denney Wright said that type of performance is just what she’s looking for from her veterans.

“Those seniors are tremendous,” she said. “They’ve worked hard and they’re great players. When they’ve been given a shot, they’ve made the most out of it.”

“You know when they come in they’re a spark Ö and that’s what we need.”

Senior Becky Dellaria was just as impressive as Neary last weekend, getting to loose balls and taking multiple shots to give the Gophers another legitimate offensive threat to complement freshman Lindsey Schwartz.

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After losing her starting spot earlier in the season, Dellaria regained it by producing, with five scoring points in the last six games.

Denney Wright said Dellaria has played so well that it’s hard to substitute her out of the game.

Along with Neary and Dellaria, Denney Wright said she has been equally impressed with the play of defender Nicki Burnie and goalkeeper Molly Schneider.

Burnie has been consistent at defense all season for the Gophers, and Schneider leads the Big Ten in saves.

“All those guys, it’s some of the best performances I’ve witnessed,” Denney Wright said. “That’s exciting that they’re

still putting out the best performances of their career right now.”

And the freshmen are taking note of that attitude, benefiting the entire team.

“(The seniors) just make you want to get better,” Schwartz said. “Everything here is so intense all the time and I know they’re the ones that make it that way.”

Along the same lines, Minnesota’s seniors said they’ve taken on the responsibility of showing the underclassmen what it takes to compete and win in the highly competitive Big Ten.

“It’s kind of our job to show them what level of play you have to hold the game at,” Neary said after Sunday’s game. “To set the standard and bring the level of the game up so that they know, as freshmen, how it’s going to be.”

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