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Dellaria helping to key NCAA tournament contention

During Becky Dellaria’s first three collegiate seasons, Minnesota’s soccer team won a combined five Big Ten games.

In this, Dellaria’s senior season, the Gophers have surpassed that three-year total with a 6-3 conference record.

After being part of perhaps the lowest point in Gophers soccer, Dellaria is finally a part of one of the high points.

“We got complacent with losing,” Dellaria said of her first three years. “We were just so used to it Ö I just felt like we got to a point in the season where we wouldn’t step on the field expecting to score, we were just hoping not to get scored on.”

Although Dellaria said she knew Minnesota needed a coaching change after her sophomore year under previous coach Barbara Wickstrand, she said the adjustment to current coach Mikki Denney Wright wasn’t always easy.

“I didn’t want to transfer or quit, but it was hard,” Dellaria said. “There were points in the first spring (with Denney Wright) where it was like ‘Is this soccer?’ It really wasn’t fun at all. But she had to do it Ö she needed to start a new program.”

Denney Wright said she saw Dellaria’s athleticism immediately, but was concerned with her lack of fitness.

After watching Dellaria struggle through some of the mandatory fitness tests initially, Denney Wright watched her turn it around in the spring before her senior year.

“Now she leads fitness,” Denney Wright said. “I think it’s changed her game in so many ways. She can play for 90 minutes now.”

Her improved fitness also helped to make her more physical on the field, defender Laura Hoppe said.

“(Freshman year) she was slightly out of control but now she uses that to her advantage,” Hoppe said. “I’d be scared if she was coming at me because she goes all out.”

After earning just one assist for one scoring point her freshman year, Dellaria became a fixture in Minnesota’s offensive attack her sophomore season, with five goals and 16 points.

This season, she ranks second on the team with 10 points, behind freshman Lindsey Schwartz’s 17 points.

Although Schwartz has more goals this season, Denney Wright said it is often Dellaria that opposing teams are focusing on.

“I think she’s clearly the leader in our attack,” Denney Wright said. “Most of what’s happened this year has really come through her at some point.

“She’s so fast that she pressures the defenders and they make mistakes, so then we get the ball.”

One of the leaders now, Dellaria wasn’t even in the starting lineup in Minnesota’s first games this year.

Denney Wright said she always knew that Dellaria would factor into the Gophers’ success, but there were freshmen that were beating her out at the time.

And despite losing her spot to an underclassman after starting for two straight years, Dellaria said she never confronted Denney Wright about it.

“It was hard, but I didn’t really let it affect me,” she said. “It was a bummer but I knew that every time I go in I play my hardest. If she didn’t want me in, she didn’t want me in. But I thought I could earn my spot back – and I did.”

Verbals float in

A source close to Minnesota’s soccer program confirmed that six players have verbally committed to the Gophers for next year.

Both of Minnesota’s Ms. Soccer recipients, goalkeeper Chelsey Turner of Rochester Lourdes and defender Dana Tripp of White Bear Lake will attend Minnesota in 2006.

Also committed are Sara Clancy, Jenny Green, Lyndsey Mueller and Kelly Wepking.

Denney Wright is prohibited from commenting on potential recruits before they sign.

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