Minnesota prepares for Big Tens

Minnesota enters the conference tournament as the No. 3-seeded team.

Minnesota freshman Sara Groenewegen plays against Penn State at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Saturday, April 26, 2014.

Lisa Persson

Minnesota freshman Sara Groenewegen plays against Penn State at the Jane Sage Cowles Stadium on Saturday, April 26, 2014.

Jared Christensen

The Gophers haven’t forgotten last year’s Big Ten tournament loss — and this time around, they’re using it as motivation.

Minnesota lost 9-3 to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game last year, and sophomore catcher Taylor LeMay said this season the team wants to finish the job.

“We got our travel bags for the tournament, and they came with a piece of paper that said, ‘Unfinished Business,’” LeMay said.

The Gophers are ranked No. 15 in the nation, and their expectations are high entering this weekend.

“We’re here to win a Big Ten championship,” junior third baseman Kaitlyn Richardson said.

Richardson, along with junior shortstop Tyler Walker and freshman pitcher Sara Groenewegen, was named First Team All-Big Ten on Wednesday.

Groenewegen, who went 12-2 this year with a 2.27 ERA, jumped right in this season and joined senior Sara Moulton to form one of the most dominant pitching staffs in the nation.

Moulton, the program’s ace, pitched a majority of the team’s innings and was named second-team All-Big Ten.

Still, head coach Jessica Allister said individual awards don’t come unless the team is having success — something the Gophers have had a lot of this year.

“[Those awards] really start coming in when the team is winning games and putting itself in a good position,” she said.

With the Big Ten tournament looming, the Gophers have already put themselves in a good position. They’re in the midst of one of the best seasons in program history, and this weekend, they will look to take a step beyond last season’s accomplishments.

This year’s talent combined with fuel from last year has the Gophers poised to make a deep run in the Big Ten tournament.

Minnesota has a bye in the first round before facing the winner of Purdue and Indiana in the quarterfinals.

Richardson said she’s confident in her team’s talent and said her teammates are ready to do whatever it takes to win.

“We were a good enough team to win last year, and we’re even better this year,” she said. “We’re coming in with a chip on our shoulder.”