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Jack White | St. Paul Pioneer Press | October 12, 2017

After several slow starts, Gophers' Squires now a scoring machine

  Squires' 13 goals this season are the most in the Big Ten and tied for second overall in Division I.

During her first season of youth soccer, Sydney Squires mostly stood still on the field as the other kids ran around chasing the ball.

Her parents, worried she didn't like the sport, decided to have her play one more year to see if she turned it around.

The Gophers are glad she did. Squires, now a senior forward for the Minnesota women's soccer team, is second in the nation this season with 13 goals, including five game-winners. She leads the Big Ten in both goals and points (29).

"She did stick it out when she was really small," said Joe Squires, Sydney's father. "Then she sort of had some success, then, candidly, it snowballed from there."

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The Hudson, Wisconsin, native has emerged as the Gophers' top scoring threat this season, but it has taken her years to get established at UM.

She played in all 23 games last season but started just two. Still, she finished second on the team in goals with eight and was playing her best soccer by the end of the season, being named Outstanding Offensive Player at the Big Ten tournament, which the Gophers won. Squires scored a goal in the 2-1 championship game victory over Rutgers.

"With (Squires) in various seasons, she's been very up and down," Gophers coach Stefanie Golan said. "Her possession rate in some games was around 30 percent, which was not good enough to be in a consistent starting role."

That hasn't been a problem this fall.

"We are pleased as a team to see how Sydney has been able to finish at the net consistently this year," Goalan said. "She is a big part of why we have been able to be so successful this season."

The Gophers are 9-2-3 overall and 5-1-1 in the Big Ten this season. Squires has been named Big Ten offensive player on the week twice, for the final week of August and last week.

Golan said Squires made Gophers soccer a priority over the summer, working on several aspects of her game to keep possession of the ball.

"Holding off pressure, receiving balls with pressure on her back, playing quickly in those moments," Golan said.

In a 6-1 early-season victory over Iowa State, Squires scored four goals and added an assist. She scored three goals last week, two in a 3-2 victory over Indiana and the game-winner in a 2-0 victory over Purdue.

"She knows the game very well, and she's very aware of how her voice can impact the game," said teammate and roommate Tori Burnett. "She's really kind of come into her voice and knows a lot, and can articulate what she's seeing."

As the honors have piled up this season -- she also has been NCAA Player of the Week and United Soccer Coaches' Player of the Week -- teasing from teammates has increased, and Squires responds with humility.

"I know they're trying to be super nice about it," she said. "When they bring it up, I get embarrassed."

Squires played for St. Croix Academy, a club team, before joining the Gophers. She hadn't considered playing Division I soccer until Minnesota reached out to her in ninth grade. She said she's been a Gophers fan since she was little, and that's one of the reasons she committed.

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"They were the first ones to reach out to me," Squires said. "I've got pictures of myself when I was 2 years old in a Gopher track suit."

Julianna Gernes, who played with Squires at St. Croix Academy, and now with the Gophers, said Squires had a nose for the net even back then.

"She won't necessarily get the perfect pass, but she'll still be scoring goals the whole game," Gernes said.

The Gophers won Big Ten regular season and tournament titles last season before losing in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Squires hopes to help the team improve off 2016's historic season and go deeper into postseason play.

"Last year, we had a lot of star players, and I think we kind of let that take over," Squires said. "This year, we all feel like we're just one unit."

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