Women’s soccer prepares for Big Ten tourney with NCAA bid on the line

first_imgIt’s a new season for the Wisconsin women’s soccer team. The 10 wins, six losses, two ties, an impressive 6-2-2 road record and an up and down season with remarkable wins and demoralizing losses has come to an end. The end of the regular season marks the beginning of what the players and coaches are calling a “new season” for the Badgers as they head to Champaign, Ill., as the six seed in this year’s Big Ten Conference tournament. The Badgers (10-6-2, 5-5-1 Big Ten) earned a berth into the tournament by beating Northwestern this past Saturday and will kick off the tournament against the third seed, Penn State Nittany Lions (13-5-1, 7-4-0 Big Ten), Wednesday.Winning just two out of seven games heading into the Northwestern game, the Badgers put themselves in a must-win situation. Having been shutout in their previous two games, head coach Paula Wilkins was happy to see her team bounce back with three goals and gain some momentum before the Big Ten tournament.“Yeah it gave us some confidence,” Wilkins said. “I think the biggest thing was getting three goals and getting a lot of opportunities. I think that was something we needed to do. We had a lot of opportunities against Minnesota and Indiana but just weren’t able to complete them, so that was important as well as getting the win.”Wisconsin’s opponent Wednesday, Penn State, beat the Badgers in their only matchup of the season earning a 2-1 win in Madison in early October. Penn State comes into the tournament having won three out of their last five games with senior Maya Hayes leading the way. One of, if not the best players in the Big Ten, Hayes leads the Big Ten in points (70) and goals (31) by a long shot. The next closest player in each category has just 46 points and 20 goals. Penn State also leads the Big Ten in goals (70), goals per game (2.69), assists (85) and assists per game (3.27).It will undoubtedly be a tough test for the young Badgers squad, but junior Cara Walls understands the challenges the Nittany Lions will present them and the key to stopping such a high-powered offense.“They have a lot of really good one-on-one players,” Walls said. “So we’re going to have to defend smartly and as a group. But we know that they’re a beatable team right now so we just have to exploit their weaknesses and defend well.”With 18 of the 26 players on the team being freshmen or sophomores and just one senior in the starting lineup, the Badgers come into the tournament as one of the younger teams in the eight team field. Despite being the lone senior in the starting lineup, Alev Kelter, sees her fellow teammates as a unified team with each player providing their own leadership role.“I think everyone has a leadership role on the team,” Kelter said. “So I think as far as my role goes, just bringing the aggressiveness and doing the little things well. We’re going to stay cohesive as a unit and do the simple things well.”Wilkins also believes that there isn’t just one leader on this Badger squad but sees a leader at each position group on the team.“Everybody can lead us,” Wilkins said. “[Genevieve Richard] has been a consistent factor for us in the back and I think she’s done a great job. I think you look for some leadership from your seniors on the field and I think [Alex Heller] has done a great job essentially in the back. And again from [Rose Lavelle], our freshman, she needs to do something special.”That something special from Lavelle, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the year, or any other player, will try to push the Badgers through the Big Ten tournament and into the NCAA tournament. It will be a tough challenge for UW with Nebraska (1), Michigan (2), Indiana (4), Illinois (5), Iowa (7) and Minnesota (8) rounding out the rest of the field for the tournament.Despite being the third lowest seed, Walls, Kelter, Wilkins and the rest of the Badgers’ team are upbeat about their chances not just Wednesday, but for the rest of the tournament, realizing it’s a new season and their work throughout the year culminates to the next couple of days.“This is a new season, a new start for us,” Walls said. “We get to go at winning a Big Ten championship and it’s something that we should go for.”“It’s a fresh start,” Kelter added. “We’re going to keep being simple and play our game. We just know that it will be a new season from now on.”It will be about consistency and focusing on one game at a time in the single elimination tournament according to Wilkins.“It’s one game at a time,” Wilkins said. “We have to focus and put everything in that one little moment that we can. The details are going to matter. Everything we’ve done the whole entire season is leading up to this.”Wednesday’s game is slated to kick off at 10:30 a.m. from the University of Illinois with the victor taking on the winner of the Michigan (2) and Iowa (7) game.last_img

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