The Wisconsin men’s soccer team kicked off the new season and the Jeff Rohrman era on a winning note last weekend as they won their own Rocky Rococo Wisconsin Soccer Classic.
The Badgers (2-0) defeated Iona 4-0 Friday and then held off Florida Atlantic 1-0 Sunday to claim their third-straight Classic championship, the first for new head coach Rohrman. It was also the third year in a row UW swept the MVP awards.
Badger goalie Eric Hanson and midfielder David Martinez were named defensive and offensive MVP’s, respectively.
Hanson, a red-shirt sophomore in his first year as a starter, recorded four saves over the weekend in route to the shutouts.
While on the other side of the ball, Martinez, also a red-shirt sophomore, notched two goals, including the game-winner against Florida Atlantic and one assist, to lead all players in scoring over the weekend.
The championship was secured Sunday after battling to a 1-0 victory over FA in a match that proved to be much more physical than the Friday match against Iona.
The Owls, who were coming off of a 0-0 double OT draw against Western Michigan Friday night, created more pressure in the middle, making the attacks on the goal harder to come by.
The Badgers were finally able to capitalize on one of their 14 shots on goals when Martinez connected on a pass from midfielder Erol Goknur to put the ball past Owl goalkeeper Anders Granstad at the 36:58 mark.
Despite 14 of 17 total shots being on goal, the statistics were not as telling as they looked.
The Owls 4-5-1 formation was a more direct approach than UW saw against Iona, and come the second half, opportunities were not as prevalent. The Badgers tallied 12 shots in the first period and only five in the second.
“I thought in the first half we had a few good chances,” Rohrman said.
“The second half you could see how tired we were getting, and it was more physically demanding in the second half to get through it. People were having mis-touches, passes were going astray, and at times our concentration wasn’t fully there.”
While the offense created the win, it was the defense that held on to earn it. Hanson, only seeing three shots on the goal out of the 12 total shots, was a credit to the defensive stance put forth by defenders John McGrady and Joe Anderson, who prevented a majority of the shots from ever seeing the front of the net.
“It’s nice to say that [I won the MVP], but it really is no big deal,” Hanson said. “It could have gone to McGrady, Anderson or any of those guys out there because they did just as much as I did.”
Friday night’s match against Iona was more a one-sided contest as Wisconsin dominated the match at both ends of the ball. The Badgers tallied 11 shots on goal of 20 total attempts, while limiting the Gaels to only one shot on net.
Two members of the all-tournament team opened up the offensive rout when senior captain Valentine Anozie took a cross from forward Nick Van Sicklen and blasted it in from the right side of the goal only three and a half minutes into the contest.
UW would be held scoreless for the next 57 minutes before exploding for three goals in a ten-minute span later in the second half.
Martinez got things started when he scored off a free kick to put the Badgers up 2-0. Van Sicklen quickly followed suit, as he took a pass from Martinez before beating Iona goalie Patrick McAllen one-on-one.
McAllen would ultimately give up 10 goals in the tourney after the Gaels were ripped 6-1 by Western Michigan University.
The night finished with forward Watson Vaughn Prather working the ball past the Gael defenders for the fourth and final goal of the evening.
Friday night’s offensive show was just a sampling of what Coach Rorhman’s team could be bringing to the table as he takes over for former coach Kalekeni Banda, who resigned at the end of last season.
“I would say that we’re a team that [tries] to play attractive, possession-oriented soccer,” Rohrman said. “At times we might have to go over the top, but that’s just us paying attention to the principles of the game — hopefully we’ll be able to create chances out of that. To expect [a lot of goals] every game, I don’t know, but I am going to hope it happens.”