Gophers back on Robbie pitch for tourney

by Emily Wickstrom

Minnesota’s soccer team ended the fall season with feelings of unfinished business.

The new roster, stacked with talented freshmen, had the Gophers experiencing their best season since 1999, but still failed to be selected for the NCAA Tournament.

Minnesota is preparing early to make sure it doesn’t get left out again. They are playing spring games against teams with a history of success, such as Kansas and Nebraska.

“It’s just a time for everyone to improve,” forward Lindsey Schwartz said, who will be a sophomore next season. “To work on what they need to work on so we’re ready for the fall.”

The Gophers will end their spring season at home, in hosting the second annual Gopher Spring Classic on Saturday at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium.

Along with Minnesota, Creighton, Marquette, North Dakota and Wisconsin at Milwaukee will participate.

The Gophers will face two NCAA Tournament teams in playing the Panthers at 9 a.m. and the Golden Eagles at 2 p.m.

“The only way we feel like we know where we’re at is to get great competition,” Minnesota coach Mikki Denney Wright said. “This is the toughest spring competition Minnesota’s ever had.”

Although the Gophers are without their complete team – seven recruits won’t arrive on campus until the summer – at least two incoming freshmen already are contributing.

Goalkeeper Chelsey Turner, the Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year, graduated from Lourdes High School in Rochester in January to join the Gophers for their spring season.

Turner appears the favorite to be Minnesota’s starting keeper in August, but rising sophomore Lindsey Dare is not far behind.

“Both (Turner and Dare) have been so impressive,” Denney Wright said. “Dare’s really developed. Ö They’re both very, very good and very capable.”

For now the two are splitting time in goal and each will play one game Saturday.

Forward Elena Fruci scored 43 goals in her senior year at Mahtomedi High School, and was expected to contribute to the 2005 Gophers immediately.

But she tore her anterior cruciate ligament before the season, forcing a medical redshirt.

As a freshman next year, Fruci should help out a Minnesota attack that struggled at times to score goals.

“Fruci helps us out a lot,” midfielder Kelsey Hood said. “She’s very creative up top, and that’s something I think was lacking a lot last year. She brings another element to our attack.”

The new-look Gophers are using the spring season for training and development, but the main goal is to produce wins in the fall.

“Any time our kids get on the field they want to win,” Denney Wright said. “But obviously you could win every game in the spring, and it doesn’t mean anything in the fall.”