Senior soccer players look forward to pro dreams

Four Minnesota players will graduate early in pursuit of professional careers.

Senior forward Simone Kolander tries to keep the ball from Wisconsin on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in St. Paul.

Chelea Gortmaker, Daily File Photo

Senior forward Simone Kolander tries to keep the ball from Wisconsin on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in St. Paul.

Dominic Davis

While Minnesota is only one game into Big Ten tournament play, four of its players already have big plans for the future.

Seniors Simone Kolander, Josee Stiever, Rashida Beal and Tarah Hobbs are attempting to pursue careers in professional soccer after their last season with the Gophers finishes.

“Being a student athlete presents a lot of challenges,” Stiever said. “We prepared ourselves by taking summer class and tutoring. While it’s a challenge, we were able to get our work done on and off the field.”

Head coach Stefanie Golan said she is amazed by how they put themselves in the position to graduate early.

She also said the four seniors can play at a higher level and will bring value to wherever they end up because of their individual strengths.

Golan said Stiever makes everyone around her better, and she can make an impact in any position. Kolander’s size and scoring ability will give her an edge at the next level. Beal’s speed at defense is advantageous. Hobbs’ athleticism allows her to cover the entire goal.

Though the transition from collegiate soccer to professional play is a big adjustment, the coaches’ faith in all of them has been huge for their confidence.

“They’re very supportive about it,” Hobbs said. “Them telling us that we can do it means a lot.”

The National Women’s Soccer League draft is in January, and Kolander, Stiever, Beal and Hobbs all plan to register once their Gophers season ends.

Most of them like the idea of playing in the United States but are open to play anywhere to keep their dreams of playing alive.

“We all feel like we would love to keep our options open,” Kolander said. “We just want to play … it’s the game we love, and we are going to follow it wherever we can.”

Hobbs said she is also interested in possibly furthering her career outside the U.S.

“I thought more about playing overseas,” Hobbs said. “It would be a cool cultural experience to be able to play and see a different viewpoint of soccer within a different country.”

The group is excited about the opportunity, but is also trying not to look too far ahead.

The team still has at least one game left in the Big Ten Tournament Friday, with the Championship taking place on Sunday.

The No. 8 Gophers (14-3-3, 7-1-3 Big Ten) won a share of their first Big Ten regular season title Oct. 25 for the first time since 2008.

“We understand that how we do as a team and individually this year matters for opportunities coming up,” Beal said. “We have a lot of things we want to accomplish on this team first.”

Golan said she has seen the growth of this group on the field through their four years playing for Minnesota, but the growth they show off the field means more to them.

“The [number] of things this program and this team has done is something you can’t put into words,” Hobbs said. “The maturity and the leadership we gained is way more priceless than the soccer piece. The relationships we built with our teammates is second to none.”

Playing Minnesota soccer has given them the tools they need to play professionally, but they also hope to be remembered by their character.

“We really want to be remembered as a class that just stood together and changed the program,” Stiever said. “We pride ourselves on always being the hardest workers on the field and giving everything, never leaving anything behind.”