I know I'm the only Minnesota fan around these parts, but this is a program on the rise. Back to back stellar recruiting classes have jolted this program from the Big Ten cellar into a darkhorse contender for the conference title. The Golden Gophers built their resurgence last year around a strong defense and an outstanding keeper. A chunk of the defense, and last year's All Big Ten goalkeeper, Molly Schneider, have graduated. Hailey McCarthy, the team's top defender returns for her junior season and will anchor a green defense. The keeper position is still up in the air between Lindsey Dare and Chelsea Turner. Both were very highly touted in high school, Turner was an NSCAA All-American. They may split a lot of time between the pipes this season unless either takes control of the position. The midfield and forward are filled with young talent. It appears Minnesota will be starting 10 sophomores and freshmen this season, so there will be some growing pains, but all of these girls were big recruits with a lot of talent. Kelsey Hood will anchor the midfield. She's a ball winning, strong and technical player with great passing skills. She will be looking to build on her All Big Ten freshman team performance of last season. Also on the All Big Ten freshman team last season, and the Soccer Buzz regional freshman team, Clare Grimwood will be moving to the midfield from defense. She contributed 7 assists from the back last season, and more will be expected of her in the middle. She could become the star for this team with her speed and passing abilities. The forward position should be MUCH improved from last season. The Gophers return leading scorer and offensive MVP, Lindsey Schwartz, who put together a fine freshman season. She will have more help up top this season. Top 75 recruit Kelly Wepking has wowed in practice and has already made an instant impact in the scrimmages. Additionally, 2005 Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year Elena Fruci makes her debut after redshirting last season with injury. The Gophers expect more goals. Of the other freshmen outside of Turner and Wepking, Lyndsey Mueller and Sarah Clancy will probably assume starting roles for tomorrow's opener. The only x-factor to report is how Renee de St. Aubin will figure into the team's plan this season. She saw limited time in the exhibition, but was an impact player for NCAA bound Iowa State last season. Hopefully her role will increase as she learns the new system. Go Gophers!