The Gophers women's soccer team scored 44 goals last season on the way to an 11-7-2 record.

Taylor Uhl had 21 of them and assisted on nine more. Some quick math says she personally scored close to half the team's goals and had a hand in more than two-thirds of them.

When Uhl, a sophomore last season, announced in the offseason that she was leaving the program — the former Eden Prairie star transferred to Stanford, the No. 2 team in the preseason rankings — it left a considerable void. It also left coach Stefanie Golan with a message for her team: it was time for all of them to step up in order to fill it.

"You get production from a lot of different players," Golan said. "We don't have a single one who is going to score 20 goals, I don't think, but we have a lot of players who can score handfuls of goals."

A dry run in an exhibition match last Friday was a nice start, with the Gophers netting three goals in a victory over Green Bay. The season begins in earnest Friday with the Gopher Tournament at Robbie Stadium in St. Paul. Minnesota faces Toledo at 7 p.m. and North Dakota State at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

They'll take the field with a roster comprised of 12 newcomers — eight freshmen and four incoming transfers — giving the Gophers plenty of options to pick up the scoring slack.

"We absolutely have to have them," Golan said of her newcomers and their level of production.

Sophomore Haley Helverson, who shifted to defender last year out of necessity, is back at her natural attacker position and should also help.

"I'm been an attacker my whole life, so moving up makes me feel a whole lot better," Helverson said. "I feel like I'm in my zone. I'm ready to get out and score some goals."

If Helverson and her teammates do that, and a trio of young goalkeepers proves productive, Golan is optimistic her team can compete in the Big Ten.

"Right now I see us in the middle of the pack," Golan said. "Is there potential to do more than that? Absolutely. But we're young, and we have to grow every day."

michael rand