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Gophers soccer yearning for 2024 postseason run

After missing the Big Ten tournament last year, Minnesota is looking to bounce back and score more goals this season.
Image by Gopher Athletics
The Gophers are coming off a “great spring” and look to carry that into the season.

The Gophers women’s soccer team is poised to foster its younger players after a gut-wrenching 2023 season where they finished one spot short of the Big Ten tournament.

Minnesota welcomed six freshmen to their 2024 roster, along with junior forward Katie Krohn, who spent her first two seasons at the University of Buffalo. The blueprint is set for the new Gophers to step in and define their role on the team, with impact freshmen Kate Childers and Paige Kalal leading the way.

In her freshman season, Childers started every game and led the team in minutes on the field. The All-Big Ten freshman said she took advantage of the preseason to earn her coaches’ trust.

“I got my chance in one of the exhibition games,” Childers said. “I just kind of ran with it, and I was rewarded.”

Senior forward Khyah Harper looked to make an impression among other teams after spending the spring with Salvo Soccer Club (Salvo SC) of the Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPSL). Harper was the WPSL’s most recent central region Player of the Week after scoring four goals and tallying three assists in three games.

“I think all around I can be better, but I think I’m coming off a pretty good spring and summer right now,” Harper said. “I’ve scored eight in five games, and I’ve scored in every game.”

Harper’s Gopher teammates Alma Beaton and Sophia Boman played alongside her for Salvo SC throughout the summer. For the maroon and gold, Harper played in 16 of the 17 games, scoring one goal and assisting on four.

Putting the ball in the net was a frequent struggle for the Gophers all season. After scoring 9 goals in two non-conference games, Minnesota scored just 17 goals over its final 15 games. The team finished ninth in Big Ten scoring.

The Gophers returned two of their top three goal scorers from the 2023 season in Sophia Romine and Boman.

Harper said the team cultivated confidence through their spring season together, where they saw more goals when attacking their opponent’s net.

“Just building off of that and creating more confidence going forward, and we had a lot of unselfishness in the spring,” Harper said. “We had multiple goal scorers … which, I think, is something we haven’t really had the past three years.”

The Gophers are coming off a three-win conference season.

Minnesota lost five of its starters from last season, including forwards Megan Nemec and Izzy Brown, defender Jordy Rothwell, midfielder Amelia Brown and goalkeeper Megan Plaschko.

The big turnover in key positions means the Gophers will rely more on younger players and the experience they received from last season. Harper said junior defender Fiona Skwierawski earned a bigger role toward the end of last season.

“I think Fiona started to make her role as the season went on,” Harper said. “She started to earn her spot, but I think she will be a huge impact player for us this year.”

After playing just two games her freshman season, Skwierawski started seven games and appeared in 10 last season.

Childers said that, despite not making it to the Big Ten tournament in 2023, the team’s main goal is to earn a bid to the 2024 NCAA Tournament in December.

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