The University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team gets back to action tonight when they face the Marquette University Golden Eagles at the McClimon Track and Soccer Complex.
The Golden Eagles present a tough challenge to the Badgers, who split in the TCU-Adidas Soccer Classic over the weekend.
Besides the quality competition, however, Marquette brings the added pressure of an in-state rival. Wisconsin head coach Kalekeni Banda is well aware of the extra emotions that will be brought on by this game.
“With this game being an in-state rival and on a weeknight, the players will be going to school during the day with a lot of emotions,” Banda said. “Whichever team can control those emotions in a positive way will likely come out on top.”
Both teams have started out the season very well. The Badgers are 6-1, with their only loss coming last weekend to the top-ranked SMU Mustangs. After losing that game 6-0, the Badgers rebounded to shutout TCU 2-0 on goalkeeper Moriba Atiba Baker’s ninth career shutout.
“That victory was very important to this team’s psyche,” Banda said. “We were very resilient and made the correct adjustments.”
Atiba Baker could once again be the key to the Badgers’ hopes. In their six wins, he has only given up four goals, including three shutouts. Coming home also should give UW a much-needed boost.
The Badgers are 3-0 this season and have outscored their opponents 8-1 at McClimon.
“We need to protect our home turf,” Banda said. “We will be ready to come out and play here, no excuses.”
However, Wisconsin will be playing their toughest home opponent so far this season in Marquette, who is 4-1. The Golden Eagles are coming off their most impressive win of the season, a 1-0 victory on Saturday at No. 23 ranked Santa Clara University. Since losing their opener, Marquette has won four in a row.
MU has a very balanced attack, led by senior forward Sean Reti, who leads the team with four goals and nine points. Marquette goalkeeper Adam Ubert has only given up three goals in five games this season. Both players were named Conference USA players of the week after last week’s contests.
Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Thursday night, but because of Marquette’s scheduling changes due to the terrorist attacks, the game was moved up a day. This shouldn’t present any added problems for Wisconsin. “We will just have to make a few adjustments, but there will be no excuses whatsoever,” Banda said.
If anything, playing a day earlier could help the Badgers, as they will get an extra day off before opening their Big Ten schedule on Sunday afternoon at home against Ohio State.
But first things first. A win against Marquette would improve UW to 7-1 as they enter Big Ten play, including 4-0 at home. A win would also prove Wisconsin can play with good teams, something they will need to do the rest of the season.