Gophers to the East Coast for nonconference tests

by Emily Wickstrom

The University’s soccer team has just one more week to prepare for the Big Ten season.

This weekend’s games will be used as a measuring stick to see where the Gophers (3-1-2) stand. The team travels to Hanover, N.H., to take on Dartmouth and Villanova as part of the adidas/Hypertherm Classic.

Gophers coach Mikki Denney Wright said she knows her team has a difficult road ahead.

Dartmouth (2-2) was ranked No. 24 nationally in last week’s NSCAA/adidas poll before falling out of the rankings after losing back-to-back games to California and St. Mary’s (Calif.).

Villanova (3-3-1) has qualified for the NCAA Tournament the past four years in a row.

Denney Wright, who said she is glad her team is playing a tougher nonconference schedule than last year, said she feels her team is up to the challenge.

“It’s going to be a very exciting weekend,” she said. “To win these games would give us a lot of credibility. And if we’re thinking (of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament), these would be important wins for our program.”

The Gophers players agreed, saying they feel the team is much more prepared and confident at this point in the season compared with last year.

“The competition we played this year is a lot better than last year,” senior goalkeeper Molly Schneider said. “We’ve played different types of teams – more skilled teams and teams that are tougher that us Ö We’re well-seasoned already.”

The Gophers hope to put a full game together, where both the offense and defense perform well. This is something they have yet to do this year.

“Part of the problem with us not quite hitting it all together has been some inexperience,” sophomore defender Hailey McCarthy said.

But it is hard for the Gophers not to gain experience from all the road games played this season.

Friday and Sunday’s games will be the Gophers’ sixth and seventh away games of the season after playing just one match at home. McCarthy said that will help the Gophers get ready for the conference schedule.

“The amount of playing we’re doing right now, the amount of traveling, it’s definitely putting some experience under our belt,” McCarthy said. “It won’t be a problem for Big Tens. I think we’re going to come out and crush them.”