After defeating Minnesota 3-1 in the final conference game of the season Oct. 24, the UW women’s soccer team will take on in-state rival UW-Milwaukee tonight at the McClimon Soccer Complex.
The annual showdown between the premier soccer programs in the UW system has generated significant excitement.
“Our goal is to win the state, and we need to beat Milwaukee in order to do that,” head coach Dean Duerst said. “It’s a great rivalry. When you look at your season, you circle teams that are a big rival. It’s definitely this one for us, the highlight game, and Milwaukee should be a tough opponent.”
The Panthers (8-7-1, 5-1-0) enter the contest with a fourth consecutive Horizon League title, which they clinched with a 1-0 win over Youngstown State University Oct. 26. Prior to the win over Youngstown State, UW-Milwaukee proved it could handle Big Ten opponents with a 3-1 victory over Iowa Oct. 24.
“We just have to worry about how we play — not about how Milwaukee plays,” Duerst said. “We have to come out and play our game. That’s what we did against Minnesota.”
The Badgers (8-8-1, 4-6-0) come into the game after finishing tied with Michigan State for seventh place in the final Big Ten standings and earning a number eight seed for the upcoming Big Ten tournament, which the Badgers will host Nov. 6-9. In a very balanced conference, UW was one of five Big Ten teams to finish with four conference wins.
“It is very disappointing,” Duerst said. “The race was really tight; we all had four wins. One game changes how you finish some times. We had hoped to finish in the top half, so we are very disappointed, but we realize how tight each game is.”
Despite the discrepancy in conference performance, Wisconsin will have history on its side against the Panthers. In the past 19 years, the Badgers have lost to UW-Milwaukee just once, posting a dominant 14-1-4 record against the Panthers. Last season, the Badgers defeated the Panthers 1-0 on a goal from forward Amy Vermuelen.
Hoping to continue their domination of UW-Milwaukee, the Badgers will look for production from forward Katy Lindenmuth, who leads the team in assists (6) and points (18) and shares the team lead in goals (6) with forward Jenny Kundert. In the recent win over Minnesota, Lindenmuth posted two goals and an assist.
“[Lindenmuth] is a dangerous player,” Duerst said. “She is somebody that can turn the tables on teams. We’re really hoping she can continue to be dangerous and cause problems for [UW-Milwaukee]. She’s a key player for us right now.”
Defensively, the Badgers will turn to the goalkeeping tandem of Stefani Szczechowski and Kristin Sonderman. The two goalkeepers have shared playing time recently, each starting two of the team’s last four games.
Sonderman allowed two goals in a loss to Ohio State Oct. 17 and surrendered four goals in the first half against Penn State Oct. 19 before Szczechowski replaced her in the second half. Szczechowski allowed just one goal in the Badgers’ 3-1 win over Minnesota Oct. 24. For the season, Szczechowski has posted a 1.46 Goals Against Average (GAA) in 14 games, and Sonderman currently holds a 2.24 GAA in five games.
Duerst has not named the starting goalkeeper for tonight’s game.
“We go day to day with that stuff,” Duerst said. “It keeps them competitive. They’re both comparable. There is real competition in goal, and that makes each one practice hard and be ready to come in.”
Regardless of which goalkeeper earns the start, the Badgers are ready to defend their title as the top team in Wisconsin against UW-Milwaukee tonight.
“We are both fighting for the position of the number one team in the state,” Szczechowski said. “We’re very confident now that we’ve been scoring goals again after a brief drought. I think we’ll be ready to go.”