Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Daily Email Edition

Get MN Daily NEWS delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday!


Gophers women’s basketball fields symphony of talent

The team has no singular factor defining its success, rather it is a combination of contributions.
Image by Alex Karwowski
Basketballs featuring the colors of all 14 teams line the wall of the Target Center during the Big Ten men’s basketball media days on Oct. 10, 2023.

There is no single factor contributing to Gophers women’s basketball’s 7-1 record to start the season, in fact, it is multiple pieces working together.

Despite the challenges of bringing on a new head coach, the players rallied behind Dawn Plitzuweit and exceeded expectations, as players are stepping up in crucial moments.

The most recent example occurred Saturday when all hope seemed to be lost for the Gophers.

The team faced an 11-point deficit against the Drake Bulldogs and were missing guards Janay Sanders, who took a hit to the ground and left the game momentarily, and Amaya Battle, who fouled out in the fourth quarter. Sanders would return to the game to fill the role of Battle. Battle works as a photographer for the Minnesota Daily.

Sophomore Mara Braun played 50 minutes in the game and made sure people knew she was there to win. Braun tallied 33 points throughout the game, 14 of which came in the double overtime.

“I was kind of feeling it in the first overtime and then eventually I was just like, ‘Alright I made it this far, let’s just finish the game,’” Braun said after the game. “I’m sure I’ll feel it tomorrow.”

Braun proved to be an unstoppable force for the Gophers at the free throw line, having yet to miss all season from the charity stripe. She and four other athletes are the only ones to do so across the NCAA, and Braun is the solo underclassman among them.

Aside from Braun, the Gophers fielded a few new players who have contributed significantly to the success of the team thus far.

Sophie Hart, a transfer from North Carolina State, played in five games last season for the Wolfpack. Now a Gopher, Hart has proven to be a dominant presence in the paint. She scored a career-high 17 points against Stony Brook after previously setting a 13-point career-high against California State Northridge.

Hart has played 192 minutes so far this season, a sharp contrast to playing less than 29 last season at NC State.

“It feels great,” Hart said. “I just trusted the process — knew all the hard work would eventually pay off.”

Hart, a native out of Farmington, Minnesota, said her friends in Raleigh, North Carolina, dubbed her the nickname “Soph the Goph.”

“I kind of told it to my parents as a joke, I’m like, ‘Guess what stupid thing my friends said,’” Hart said.

Tom Hart, Sophie Hart’s father, is routinely at the games wearing his daughter’s jersey or some kind of merchandise with Hart’s number, 52, on it. According to Sophie, Tom is now in the process of making “Soph the Goph” shirts.

Sophie said one of the best parts about playing for the Gophers is not only her family showing their support but also that she never knows who will “go off.”

“Next game it could be Amaya, it could be Mara, it could be really anyone,” Sophie said.

True freshman Grace Grocholski also had a night of excellence on Nov. 29 when she led the team with 26 points to a win over Norfolk State.

Grocholski said her coaches and teammates always had confidence in her. However, the night was special because the day prior, Battle said her shots were going to go in.

“She kept telling me that it was going to go in and tonight was going to be the night,” Grocholski said after the game against Norfolk State. “Somehow she knew.”

Even before the game, Battle told Grocholski her first shot was going to go.

At the 7:52 mark in the first quarter, Battle’s words were proven true when Grocholski made her first shot, a three-pointer.

The Gophers roster is in large part why they are tied at No. 2 in the Big Ten. Head coach Plitzuweit said her squad has a “high basketball IQ,” which has led to the team’s recent success.

“We have young ladies who have the ability to learn from situations and then make adjustments,” Plitzuweit said.

During a timeout in their game against Drake, Plitzuweit talked about understanding “the big picture” and finding ways to adjust to their opponent.

“What’s good to see is that our players have the awareness and the sense to be able to make adjustments as time goes on,” Plitzuweit said.

The Gophers’ schedule does not get easier in the near future. The team will play their first road game against a power five team, facing Kentucky on Wednesday, before opening Big Ten play on Dec. 10 against Purdue.

View Comments (2)
More to Discover

Accessibility Toolbar

Comments (2)

All The Minnesota Daily Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Curtis
    Dec 5, 2023 at 7:35 am

    a great start to the season, stay focused and great things are going to happen this season.

  • James Buckman
    Dec 4, 2023 at 7:53 am

    I am an old and old-school basketball fan. I like fierce defense, rebounding, and ball security.
    Upon this foundation, our shooters will eventually win most games. We will like this marvelous group for a number of seasons. Jim Buckman