Some of the new Gophers have been on campus since January. Most of the team has flown halfway across the world together to test their skills against a few Italian squads. A handful of players spent time building their chemistry as teammates in summer leagues. Still, for all those situations taught us about the 2018 Gopher Soccer team, it’s nothing compared to what we’ll know after they finally suit up against Utah for their opening match on Friday night.
What we know so far
Here’s what we do know. After all the changes to the coaching staff and the roster, the Gophers will still try to play largely the same way. They want to posses the ball. They want to stretch the defense and open up high quality chances in high percentage areas of the box. Everyone – even the backline and keeper – needs to keep the ball moving and maintain quality spacing in order to make the offense flow.
In the exhibition play we observed, things weren’t quite humming yet. But even without all the cogs connecting cleanly, the Gophers still created some dangerous chances. Head Coach Stefanie Golan especially praised the overall preparation of the squad, saying that across the board it was probably one of the most “ready to go” groups she’s seen (in terms of fitness, learning the system, etc). Still, she knows with so many new starters and rotation players, there is room to grow.
What others think
This is the first of many times where we’ll remind you that Golan has a level of interest in polls that can only be described as less than zero. But she probably doesn’t have a problem with US looking at them.
Across the board, opinions on the Gophers seem to be fairly consistent, if not overly optimistic. But when you dig into the specifics, it can get a little messy. For example, Minnesota finished last year in second place in the Big Ten but unfortunately ended up just missing out on the national tournament. For comparison, two different predictions have picked them to finish 6th or 8th in the conference this year – no doubt a finish that may land them outside the 64 team field. But they also received votes equivalent to being placed 34th in the whole country.
When Top Drawer soccer (one of the best places for comprehensive youth and college soccer coverage at the national scale) put together their Big Ten preview, they had this to say:
One side that has punched above its weight of late is Minnesota. The Golden Gophers bring back April Bockin and Molly Fiedler from a side that finished in second place. A tough non-conference schedule includes Utah and Stanford, so there’s no reason to believe that the team won’t be ready for the Big Ten grind. Despite that second-place finish in the regular season (tied with Northwestern) Minnesota missed out on the tournament, something they surely will wish to rectify this season.
They also gave Bockin and Fiedler some love in their preseason Top 20 list for Big Ten players. (Shhh. Don’t tell Top Drawer about Emily Heslin and Nikki Albrecht. It will spoil the surprise).
Who to watch for
For all the talking other people might do, the Gophers are focused on what they’re doing on the field. A few notes to keep in mind when looking through my best guess at who may end up playing which roles for the squad:
Captain Emily Peterson is currently recovering from a spring ACL injury. So even though she’ll play a huge role in getting these new players up to speed and preparing them to compete at the Big Ten level, you won’t necessarily see her on the field itself.
It wasn’t uncommon for the entire backline to play the full 90 minutes last year while the midfield, and especially front three, rotated a bit more. Expect to see some rotation at the outside back positions. Part of that is the openness of the competition for minutes, but part of it is the fact that playing 90 minutes a game twice a weekend all fall is brutal. And only truly bonkers athletes can typically handle it their first year.
I haven’t figured out how to hack the coaches’ computers yet so I don’t know who will start at keeper. But here is my best guess at where players may land on the lineup sheet.
At Utah – August 17th, 8PM
At Utah State – August 19th, 2PM
*Not an official competition. But one that we recognize.
As part of our effort to expand coverage of women's soccer in Minnesota, we'll be running snap shot features of every Division II and Division III program in the state throughout the summer. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with new content!
Where the team finished last year
Macalester finished last season with a record of 7-6-4 overall (4-4-3 conference), which put them 8th in the DIII Upper Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Since then, they’ve hired former University of Minnesota Associate Head Coach Krystle Seidel to lead the program and brought in former Gopher standout Tori Burnett as an assistant coach.
Any awards the team won (all conference, all region, etc)
- Jaime Hasama (All MIAC) – 4g. 4a. Also made the All-Region team.
- Clara Webby (All MIAC) – 3g. 3a. Also made the All-Region Team
- Allison Dwinnell (All MIAC, Honorable Mention) – Started all 17 games.
- Mia Stripp (All MIAC, Honorable Mention) – 0g. 1a. Started all 17 games.
From Head Coach Krystle Seidel:
Describe the way you like the team to play
Defensively organized and purposeful on the attack. Without giving away too much of our style and how we intend to play. I believe in a style that allows the majority of the game to be played in the attacking half of the field. Defensively, everyone will know where we are trying to force the other team and where we will try to turn them over and everyone will be asked to defend in our system. Attacking wise we will always talk to our group in terms of space, overloading zones, and finding players who allow us to break their defensive lines. Possession is important for us but purpose behind our possession will be something we talk a lot about this season. Purpose doesn't mean direct but there will be intentional thought behind the choices we make on and off the ball.
Talk about type of players bring in
If you look at our roster compared to our conference, I think we have a really unique thing going. The high academic reputation of Macalester College attracts players from all over the nation. I think it is truly special that have as our student-athletes come from such different upbringings and areas with different talents and perspectives on and off the field. My staff is out to identify talented players that are driven to achieve incredible things in the classroom and in life, and carry that same drive for achievement on the soccer field. Those players are not restricted to specific areas of the country so we will be creative in how we find them.
Both of our seniors Clara Webby and Mia Stripp have had fantastic careers in the backline. They are two of the captains for the fall and both have proven to be huge contributors to the immense amount of success keeping the ball out of the back of the net over the last few years. In total they have conceded 35 goals in 51 games which is a pretty unreal career stat. In addition to them, we have two returning Juniors that we know will be major contributors on the attack this season- Molly Adams and Liz Hahn. Both are very competent players on the ball and in addition to be high level possession players, we are going to work with them using their skills and vision to be goal creators. Sophomores Allison Dwinnell, fantastic defender next to Clara and Mia, and Kate Bond, forward, also contributed minutes last season and will continue to grow in their roles on the team this fall.
I got hired after the spring season concluded, so I haven't been able to see any of the first years or sophomores that I wasn't able to catch on game film from last year. I am really excited about the potential of the remaining sophomore class, in addition to Kate and Allison who have proven themselves in the conference. There is a lot that happens between your first collegiate year of soccer and your second. You become a veteran and carry yourself in a very different way. I think there will be players in that class that will have break-out years as sophomores that maybe didn't get many minutes on the field last season. The incoming first years are still unknown to me but I am excited to see what individuals in that class can bring.
How can we be followed
Follow us on twitter- @MacalesterWSOC, like our facebook page- Macalester College Women's Soccer or visit our website-https://athletics.macalester.edu/
All home games will be streamed on with a link on our schedule. So visit our website to watch!
Full disclosure: we started the “way too early” series back when it was still way too early to predict the Gophers starting lineup for 2018 (with goalkeepers and defenders). Now after covering a bit of other colleges, WPSL, and the pros over the summer, it’s actually right on time. Technically, the Gophers have already started camp. So, before we jump in to officially watch the new squad, we’re going to fudge the rules and rush out a combined midfielders and forwards prediction, so we can get to the actual soccer.
Long story short: the Gophers front six were prolific last season. Though the Gophers offense slowed at times during the grind of the Big Ten season, they still finished the year ranked in the top 20 in goals per game (2.16 goals/game, 19th). Head Coach Stefanie Golan’s offensive system is built on spacing, passing, and stretching the defense to create high quality chances from high efficiency spots in the box. Two of the absolute best at stretching the defense and making that final pass were Molly Fiedler and April Bockin, both of whom finished in the top 50 nationally in assists – with Bockin finishing 3rd – and both of whom will be back this year.
But the only other sure-thing starter returning is Emily Heslin. Heslin joins Bockin and Fiedler as a returning starter in the front six and all three have real All Big Ten quality talent. And all of them will need to perform that way, because the Gophers lost their top two scorers from last season in Sydney Squires and Julianna Gernes.
Emily Heslin: Heslin is a force. She covers ground, connects the backline to the attackers, and patrols the middle of the field with absolutely no fear. There was talk early in the spring season of moving Heslin up the field a bit to let her and Fiedler play something like duel attacking midfielders. But, as enticing as that was, three new starters on the backline almost certainly require Heslin to play as a bruising holding midfielder who can snuff out the opposing attack before it gets too dangerous. In Golan’s 4-3-3, Heslin is the central cog that connects all three lines. It was borderline criminal that she didn’t get some post-season recognition last year. If she plays to her potential, there is no way that happens again. Especially if she keeps hitting absurd free kicks.
Molly Fiedler: The Gophers offense can be so free-flowing that it’s tough to follow all six players when they’re really in a groove – especially when watching the game from seats towards the top of the stadium. If you really want to appreciate Molly Fiedler’s game, you need to watch from the front row. Even compared to other top athletes on the squad, Fiedler has a quickness that absolutely jumps out at you. Her ability to glide into space and make a pinpoint pass make her a perfect fulcrum in the attacking third as the three strikers move into position in the opponents’ box. Last year she scored 1 goal of her own while tallying 8 assists. Don’t be surprised if both of those numbers climb a bit. Also, a truly great moment.
Celina Nummerdor: Nummerdor is a rising Sophomore who earned major minutes early on last year, eventually settling into a nice bench role. She sometimes played a bit higher up field in her first year, but expect her to fight for the third starting midfield spot in 2018. The coaching staff is quick to praise her development and the flashes she showed last year definitely demonstrated a bit of potential. I’d expect her to come into camp with a fair amount of confidence after seeing action in 14 games out of the gate last year.
TJ McKendrick: If Heslin were to move up the into more of an attacking role, it will be because McKendrick absolutely blew the coaches away in camp. She showed some ability to connect in the midfield during the spring season and she shows glimpses of vision and passing that will be valuable. McKendrick is less of a gritty holding midfielder and more someone who relies on touch and passing to keep the offense flowing. Expect her to carve out a decent role off the bench so Heslin can shift upfield to add some variety to the offensive attack.
Ariana Del Moral: Del Moral is the perfect example of someone growing into their role over the spring season. Her length and height make her an intriguing prospect, and by spring season you could catch a few moments where she really started looking confident on the ball. I’d expect her to at the very least be used to spell both Heslin and Fielder for short spurts. If she comes into camp a bit stronger and able to show some grit in the middle third, she may even push for a starting spot.
April Bockin: She’s quick. She’s got great touch. But more than anything, when April Bockin has the ball anywhere in the opponents’ half, you know she might be able to do something truly special. She spent last season feeding the goal-scoring machines of Squires and Gernes, so how will Bockin perform as the true focal point of opposing defenses? I wouldn’t be too worried. The attention the defense has to pay to Bockin creates such a gravity that other players will have tons of space in the box. Matching her 12 assist performance from a year ago won’t be easy, but it’s certainly not out of the question.
Makenzie Langdok: I joked with Langdok that she should be careful how well she plays as an outside back in the WPSL over the summer, because she might just cement herself into a starting role back there. The truth is, her physicality and knack for goal make her a great target forward in the center of the front line. She only saw action in 8 games her freshman year, but her solid spring – and great summer – seems to have given her the edge for a starting spot.
McKenna Buisman: Buisman is a serious athlete. She came to campus in January to get an early jump on her freshman year, but she’s still raking in high school awards left and right. As a dangerous lefty with serious pace on the wing, you can likely pencil her into a starting spot up front. One of the toughest parts of adjusting to the college game is the quickness and physicality. But her fitness and speed – and ability to recover even after a mistake is made – eases that transition a bit. If she can stay focused when the chances come to her, don’t be surprised if she scores a handful of goals this fall.
Maddie Castro: Castro may not end up starting, but I guarantee you she will have a spot in the rotation. The coaches rave about Castro’s coachability and her growth on the squad. As a senior on a team with so many new faces on the field, Castro will be called upon to stabilize the bench and contribute in every game. Golan likes to use a lot of subs in the front six and it will be on players like Castro to bring a consistent spark off the bench and maybe move into the starting lineup if a change needs to be made. (This is where I remind you that the team’s second leading scorer last year, Julianna Gernes, was largely coming off the bench.)
You’re probably looking at Heslin as the holding midfielder with Nummerdor and Fiedler in front of her in the midfield. And Buisman, Langdok, and Bockin from left to right on the front line. (If more of the freshman defenders show a lot of potential or Langdok happens to move back, it's clear that the coaches may want to move Patricia Ward up top as well. In regards to her potential, the phrase "lead the team in scoring" has been thrown around fairly confidently.)
For all the gaudy assist and scoring numbers, last year’s team still had some issues with finishing – leading to 6 overtime matches in just a 19 game season. When you’re playing two games in three days most weekends, that can be absolutely brutal.
All of that is to say, the front six – and especially front three – may be where players rotate most. The distance players are required to cover alone means most of the subbing is done in the midfield and the attack. So even if the starting lineup stays somewhat consistent, you can expect the rotations to vary throughout the year – especially early on in the exhibition and non-conference games.
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