The No. 15 Gophers softball team will open its season this weekend in the Sporto Kick Off Classic in Las Vegas.

Minnesota, which is coming off its best season in program history, will play No. 11 Washington at 3:30 p.m. Friday and Cal State-Bakersfield at 10:15 p.m.

The Gophers won their first Big Ten tournament title last year since 1999, hosted an NCAA regional and reached an NCAA super regional for the first time. They were 44-12 for a winning percentage of .786, their best in the NCAA era.

Sixteen of 19 players return from last season, including three first team All-Big Ten players: pitcher Sara Groenewegen, third baseman Kaitlyn Richardson and shortstop Tyler Walker. Groenewegen was picked the conference's pitcher of the year last season and rookie of the year.

U women at UND

The No. 2-ranked Gophers women's hockey team plays at No. 8 North Dakota this weekend. The opener of the WCHA series is 7 p.m. Friday at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. The second game is 4 p.m. Saturday.

Minnesota (24-1-4, 17-1-4-2 WCHA) swept UND 5-2, 4-0 at Ridder Arena in October 2014. North Dakota (15-10-3, 11-8-3-2). UND is on a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1).

Gophers coach Brad Frost needs two victories to reach 250 in his career; senior forward Meghan Lorence needs four points to reach 100 career points.


• St. Scholastica men's hockey coach Mark Wick is taking an indefinite lave of absence for medical reasons. Saints assistant coach Ben Gordon will be the interim head coach. With 145 career wins, Wick is the winningest coach in the history of the St. Scholastica program.

• Orono senior Sophie Babo was named Gatorade's girls soccer player of the year in Minnesota. The 5-10 forward/midfielder led the Spartans to a 19-2-1 record and the Class 1A state title. She had 32 goals and 12 assists.

• Four players from Minnesota were named to's list of All-America selections. They are: Sydney Hilley, a 5-10 sophomore outside hitter/setter for Champlin Park; Sarah Kelly, a 5-11 senior middle blocker for Chaska; Payton Nutter, a 5-9 sophomore setter/hitter for Faribault Bethlehem Academy, and Samantha Seliger-Swenson, a 5-11 setter for Hopkins.