McCloskey sees early success

Rachel McCloskey is third on the team with three goals in nine games.

Ben Gotz

The Gophers started the season with nine freshmen on their roster, but midfielder Rachel McCloskey is already proving that the word “freshman” on her bio should carry an asterisk next to it.

McCloskey arrived on campus in January last school year, and thanks to her head start, she’s made an immediate impact for the Gophers. In nine games, McCloskey has had three goals and six points, good for third on the team in both categories.

“Coming into the spring, I didn’t have anything to lose,” McCloskey said. “I just wanted to work hard and play at a D-I level.”

The Gophers had a roster spot open up thanks to a winter graduation last year, so one of the Gophers’ nine freshmen was able to arrive on campus early. But the decision process for filling that roster spot was not a simple one for head coach Stefanie Golan.

Golan said during the decision process, it’s not enough to just consider “the soccer piece,” and she considers a number of factors, including the potential player’s maturity and how that person would transition academically.

But when Golan weighed those factors in regards to her incoming recruits last winter, McCloskey stood out from the pack.

“We thought it would help with her transition to the college game to get a spring under her belt first, because we knew she was a player who we expected to come in and play a lot as a freshman,” Golan said. “She made the decision to come, and I think it was a great decision because I think she’s settled in very well and had a big role on our team.”

Once McCloskey arrived on campus, she got to know her teammates and her coaches. Through being around the facility and bonding with the team early, which included a sleepover with her teammates, McCloskey built a rapport with the older Gophers players much earlier than the rest of the freshman class.

“I just wanted to get some extra work in with the group and try to fit in [and] … get time to get used to the coaches’ style and how everything would go.”

McCloskey credits the extra time she spent working with the team to some of her early success on the field. And it’s helped her meet Golan’s expectations of playing plenty of minutes right away, as she earned a starting spot on the team and is one of just two freshmen starting regularly for the Gophers on the field.

“It’s great to have her there; she’s been great at ball-winning,” senior captain Katie Thyken said. “[She’s] really learning really quickly, which helps a lot.”

Thyken, who plays in the midfield with McCloskey, said McCloskey’s early start allowed her to learn the Gophers’ system and get to know other players’ tendencies on the field.

“For her to get a spring under her belt, to where now she comes in in the fall and knows what to expect a little bit more, it’s definitely been beneficial for both her and the team,” Golan said.