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Gophers’ Moench a one-year sparkplug

A transfer after three seasons at Creighton, Regina Moench’s offense is imperative.

You might say that soccer isn’t a contact sport.

But then you haven’t seen Regina Moench play the game.

“I love it when the refs just let the game go,” Moench said. “When they get whistle-happy, it’s just not as fun.”

If you’ve been to a Minnesota soccer match, you’ve seen the senior forward put hits on opposing players that would make Gophers linebackers blush. You’ve seen her all-out attitude as she crawls to get to the ball after being tripped up. If you’ve seen her play, you might think she’s flat-out crazy.

But she said she simply loves the game and how beautiful it is.

A three-time, all-state selection and 2001 graduate of Bloomington Jefferson High School in Bloomington, Minn., Moench was a three-time all-conference selection at Creighton in Omaha, Neb.

And then she up and left, returning to Minnesota this season to play for the Gophers.

Moench’s transfer back home left the Blue Jays without their second-leading scorer from a year ago and gave the Gophers a player with serious offensive talent – her 22 career goals and 57 career points would rank eighth on Minnesota’s all-time scoring list in each of those categories.

“I just wanted to come home to finish out my career,” Moench said. “I just feel really lucky that I get to be here with all the girls.”

The “girls” said they surely feel lucky as well – Moench leads the team in minutes played and has unquestionably become the team’s offensive leader. She is currently tied for third on the team in points with six.

“Regina has created most of the offensive opportunities for us,” junior midfielder Kaitlin Neary said. “She’s always kept our heads in the game and not let us let up at all.”

But heading into last weekend, some said it was getting harder to keep the team in good spirits. The Gophers had dropped seven straight games, and Moench had scored just two points through 11 games – a huge step down from her career average of one point per game.

As a result, she said, this season had been much tougher emotionally than her years at Creighton.

“I’ve felt a lot of pressure to score all year,” Moench said. “I just think I started thinking about it too much because I expected more.”

She has a lot of work to do in the five games left if she expects to top her career-best of 18 points in a season. But she’ll have a shot if she continues to play as she did when the Gophers defeated Wisconsin and Wisconsin-Green Bay during the weekend.

In Friday’s game at Wisconsin, Moench recorded a goal and an assist to lead the Gophers past the Badgers 2-1 for their first Big Ten road win in four years. On Sunday, she assisted Neary on what would be the only goal Minnesota needed to beat the Phoenix 1-0.

Her active play all weekend resulted in numerous scoring chances for the Gophers. She was clearly one of the biggest factors in a historic weekend for the team, which swept a road trip for the first time since October 2000.

And her energetic attitude and engaging personality has certainly impressed coach Mikki Denney Wright, she said.

“Regina has been such a great leader, organizer and attacker for us,” Denney Wright said. “She’s given us outstanding leadership all season long.”

Moench said she could see herself stepping into more of an advanced leadership role, such as a graduate assistant, next year. But she added that, as most seniors, she doesn’t really know what the future holds.

For now, Moench said, she just wants to have fun and keep the winning streak alive. The Gophers have a tough weekend ahead, though, facing two nationally ranked teams in No. 3 Penn State and No. 19 Ohio State.

“It’d be amazing to beat those two teams,” Moench said. “I just want to keep everyone together and on the same page, always playing as hard as we can. If we do that, you never know.”

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