The smell of playoff fever for women’s soccer is in the air. With one conference game and two non-conference games left on its schedule, the soccer team is gearing up for the postseason. This weekend takes the team to Minnesota Friday and then to UW-Green Bay Sunday to wrap up the road trip.
Having already locked a spot in the Big Ten tournament, the team is playing for placement, pride and a hopeful invitation to the NCAA tournament. Wins in the team’s final three games of the season and a strong showing in the Big Ten tournament will give the Badgers a strong case for a spot in college soccer’s Big Dance.
The first game of the weekend in Minnesota will decide the team’s placement in the Big Ten tournament. Minnesota has had a very slow season so far, holding a 6-9-1 record overall but only a 1-8- mark in the Big Ten, placing the Gophers last in the conference and without a chance at a postseason berth.
“We definitely want to beat Minnesota on Friday, because they’re in last place and basically just playing for pride,” said junior midfielder Jenny Kundert, ” We need to get up [in conference rankings] so we’re not going to be playing against Penn State or Michigan in the first round”
Minnesota’s star offensive player is junior forward Rachael Roth, who has already scored four goals and an assist this season to lead her team in points. To Minnesota’s credit, of the team’s eight losses thus far, seven have been by one goal and the team’s lone victory came over the same Michigan team that beat Wisconsin 3-2 just a few weeks ago.
“It (the final conference game) means a lot to us. It’s huge in terms of placement, for where we could end up in the regular standings,” coach Duerst said. “That puts you in a different position usually in your first-round game; you know we could potentially, depending on different results, end up in fifth place or eighth. So there’s a lot to this final game.”
With so much riding on this last regular-season game, the team hopes to get a win and set the tone for the end of the season. Heading to Green Bay Sunday will be the second and last leg of the road trip against a lesser, but no less dangerous, in-state rival.
Having posted a 6-7-2 record this season, Green Bay poses a threat to Wisconsin’s playoff hopes, because a loss there would dampen UW’s NCAA hopes.
“We feel it’s important to go 3-0, [in the last three games of the season], and going into the Big Ten tournament will really help our case,” Duerst said.
“I think we have a strong case just in the quality of opponents we’ve played on our schedule. We beat teams like Illinois and Michigan State, and all of the opponents we’ve lost to have been really close games. We need to go into that Big Ten tournament and get a couple of wins.”
With the regular-season schedule closing up shop and all the teams in the country on the bubble hoping to finish strong, this will definitely be a weekend to shine for the Badgers. It will be a chance to set the tone for a run at the Big Ten playoff championship and to see if they can make a run at the national title.