A high-powered imagination is needed to dream up a busier-than-right-now sports scene around here. Twins in the wild-card chase, Lynx in the WNBA Finals, Vikings looking strong, Gophers football is fascinating … these teams feel like Sports cover-worthy topics every day. And, oh yeah, the Wild is nearing its season-opener, the Wolves are opening training camp, there are a thousand stories to tell across the high school and small college landscapes … You get the idea.

The timing is bad then, in that sense, for four Gophers women’s teams worthy of a few synapses in that sports part of your brain this week:

Gophers volleyball. They’re back, if the first month of the season is a good indication (and it probably is). After a disappointing season a year ago, the Gophers have bounced up to No. 16 in the nation after upsetting No. 12 Ohio State before falling in a tight five sets to defending national champion Penn State. The Gophers are at home tonight (Wednesday) against Northwestern (it’s Hate The Wildcats week on campus) at 7 p.m at the Sports Pavilion. On Saturday night, No. 9 Illinois arrives. It’s a good time to check out this talented bunch. Amelia Rayno will be covering the game tonight for us. She’ll be live tweeting (@AmeliaRayno), and look for her story in Thursday’s section.

Gophers soccer. They can’t lose. Make it six victories in a row for your Big Ten leaders. The Gophers won a couple 3-1 matches over Purdue and Indiana at home last weekend, and they travel to Madison on Friday for the first of three road matches. They return home on Oct. 15 and we plan to catch up with the first-place Gophers then.

Cross-country. The “podium finish” the last time out – third place at the Roy Griak Invitational – moved the Gophers up to No. 23 in the national rankings. Befor the Griak, senior Liz Berkholtz was first across the line at the Oz Memorial Run, powering the Gophers' first-place finish. Next up: They drive 90 minutes east on Friday for the Blugold Invite in Eau Claire.

And last but not least (in fact: first, most of the time): Women’s hockey. The champs open their season Thursday night at Penn State. National title or bust, as usual, but they’re loaded again and … who would bet against them? Four national titles in five years, that’s not too shabby. Look for Amelia Rayno’s story (no, she doesn’t get days off) about two Gophers who went from opponents to teammates in less than a month in Thursday’s Sports section.

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