Beginning her fourth season with the Gophers women's basketball team, Carlie Wagner stands eighth all-time in program scoring — with a bullet.
By the time the season has ended, there is a good chance Wagner, Minnesota's most recent favorite daughter on the hard court, will stand third, behind fellow state natives Rachel Banham and Lindsay Whalen.
But she's willing to make a trade. She'll trade all the points (1,597 so far), all the three-pointers (206) and the all-Big Ten selections (two) for one more trip.
"I'd give up everything I've achieved these last few years to get back to the NCAA tournament," she said. "Just to make a run in the Big Ten, get to the tournament. It'd be awesome."
Led by Amanda Zahui B. and Banham, Gophers coach Marlene Stollings led the Gophers to 20-plus-win campaigns in her first two seasons as coach. The 2014-15 squad, which included Wagner as a freshman, made the NCAA tournament.
Last season the Gophers finished 15-16 overall, 5-11 in the Big Ten. To Stollings it was a perfect storm of a young team and a schedule that ranked among the 10 most difficult. But with a team that returns its top three scorers, four of five starters and 10 players overall, Stollings is convinced her program is headed in the right direction.
"Last year's schedule was a little bit out of our control," she said. "We had a young team that wasn't ready to play the eighth-hardest schedule in the nation. … But, back to the core of your question, the direction of our program? Baring injury, I think we're going to have a solid year with our youth combined with our experience."
Leading the way is Wagner, who averaged 19.1 points last season. Also returning is Kenisha Bell (16.1) and Gadiva Hubbard (12.5), who as a freshman last year was limited by a broken nose and mononucleosis to 23 games.
That trio will form the base for Stollings' guard-based attack. Freshman Destiny Pitts will also play a lot in the four-guard, one-post lineup. Stollings expects the trio of Jessie Edwards, Bryanna Fernstrom and Taiye Bello to split time in the post.
Her team's increased depth should have a positive impact on the defense, said Stollings, who expects a rotation as deep as nine players. And she expects better results.
"I feel we have been headed in the right direction," she said. "You look at our losses last year, Ohio State, Maryland. We played national champion South Carolina on their floor. We played Florida State, which was one game away from the Final Four."
Those experiences, though difficult, should bear some fruit this season. Agreeing with Wagner, Stollings said the goal is to return to the NCAA tournament. But she stopped short of saying the season would be a failure should the team not go.
"The tournament is definitely our goal," she said. "And a lot of things have to fall in place for that. But I wouldn't say tournament or bust, no."
Athletic director Mark Coyle said his expectations are for the Gophers to make the NCAAs, but he's more focused on effort when judging progress. Coyle said he's impressed with Stollings' work ethic. "They are working incredibly hard at practice and excited," he said. "Nobody wants to win more than Coach Stollings and the kids on that team."
But will that desire translate into wins? Wagner is convinced it will. She has built an impressive career. She'd like to leave knowing she'd helped build a legacy, too.
"We have a lot more experience on the floor this year," she said. "And the newcomers are already fitting into the culture.
"We'll hit the ground running.''