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 read more

READ MORE

CATHAL MacSUIBHNE’S DONEGAL GAA DIARY – HERE WE GO AGAIN

first_imgMatches at this time of year are always a bit unusual, no one knows quite what to expect performance-wise; results are by and large meaningless as Donegal’s whitewash in last year’s McKenna Cup testified.A freezing Wednesday night in Brewster Park is as far removed from Croke Park in September as you can imagine but that’s where the Donegal faithful pitched up last night. Every journey has to start somewhere and of course we’re all hoping that this year’s will end in nine months time again.With the team only touching down on Irish soil on Tuesday after their Dubai sojourn this was always going to be a bit of a strange and rushed affair. So rushed indeed that two of Donegal’s players, Michael Boyle and Shane McGowan, had to make do with the 2011 kit that we last wore against Dublin in the All-Ireland Semi-Final as their 2012/13 equivalents had gone AWOL! Stranger still but hugely satisfying was the fact that for only the second time ever we were treated to a Donegal team being given a guard of honour in their season opener as they made their way onto the field.Amongst them were several debutants, eight of which saw their first action in a senior jersey; Kevin McFadden and substitute Caolan Ward along with panel returnee McGowan putting in the most noteworthy displays of the youngsters.Last year’s panellists appeared that bit sharper than the newcomers despite the schedule of holidaying and celebrating they’ve had of late; indeed it’s a good omen for the rest of the first team that players like Daniel McLaughlin, Gary McFadden and Thomas McKinley weren’t found wanting physically against a Fermanagh team that have been back training for the past 7-8 weeks. Jim will put the boys through their paces over the next month and hopefully it will be a case of topping up to reach the extraordinary levels of fitness attained last year.Maxi Curran directed operations from the sideline last night, with the majority of the matchday squad being plucked from his U21 panel. Jim and Rory watched on from the stand as part of a 1,500 strong crowd. Fermanagh hit the front early and wouldn’t leave that position although it was hard to know at times such was the density of the fog that suffocated Brewster Park. The latest score had to be announced over the loudspeaker in each half, the scoreboard practically invisible through the fog in one corner of the field to the vast majority of patrons seated in the John Vesty Stand.The game from a Donegal perspective was essentially a short passing, tight affair; with the fog making visibility difficult this was understandable. Also, with so many new players in action, its natural for players to take the safe option of a quick hand pass in order to retain possession instead of being more expansive. Despite the low-key nature of the fixture, pulling on a county jersey for the first time is the biggest game of some lad’s lives and their mindsets are somewhere in between making a name for themselves and not making mistakes.Without either of the twin towers of Michael Murphy or Colm McFadden on the field, Donegal generally try and carry the ball into the forward line but in the second half when they did go that bit more direct they got their rewards with the goals from Adrian Hanlon and Brick Molloy.The hosts though for the most part had an effective defensive screen and their superior, more advanced early season conditioning allowing them to funnel back and then immediately break in numbers. McLaughlin and Copper McFadden kept running and probing though and eventually found some gaps with the Glenswilly man finishing with three well taken scores from play.Copper is one of those who would be hoping to kick on and get to the next level in 2013; this time last year there were plenty in the same boat and players such as Neil Gallagher, Eamonn McGee and Paddy McGrath climbed another rung or two on the performance ladder and were soon undroppable fixtures in the team. Others now include Brick Molloy, Patrick McBreaty, Leo McLoone and Marty Boyle – they can all push for a higher level of performance and if Jim can get that extra 10% out of some his players hopes will be high of another successful Summer. Before all that though we continue with our Winter programme and its back at base in MacCumhaill Park on Sunday where Monaghan are the visitors.CATHAL MacSUIBHNE’S DONEGAL GAA DIARY – HERE WE GO AGAIN was last modified: January 10th, 2013 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more

READ MORE