After increasing its winning streak to a season-high three games after defeating No. 25 Ohio State Sunday, the University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team is looking to continue its recent success Wednesday against Northern Illinois.
As both teams are nearing the close of the regular season, this game could be a big win for the hot 8-6-1 Huskies, who are currently on a two-game winning streak. Northern Illinois is looking to close out the season strong before playing in the Mid-American Conference and NCAA tournaments.
Similarly, the Badgers are hoping to finish the season on a high note, looking to improve on their 6-6-2 record, and they are focused on picking up a win before the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.
The Huskies are led by senior midfielder/forward Luis De La Cerda and sophomore midfielder Brad Horton, who are tied for the team lead in goals and points, fueling the team’s powerful offense. Senior forward/defenseman Josh Karsten, the team’s scoring leader along with De La Cerda and Horton, completes the trio of impact players on NIU.
To prepare for the NIU game, Wisconsin plans to follow their usual game preparation routine with a particular focus on shutting down the Huskies’ strong offensive attack.
“Coming in, trying to be focused is a big thing, and putting aside all the distractions that don’t involve soccer, so we can be at our best for the game,” junior defenseman Aaron Nichols said.
“We’ll continue to work hard in all areas of our game and be very aware of what Northern (Illinois) likes to do,” head coach Todd Yeagley added.
Nichols and the rest of the Badger defense will obviously play a key role in the game, as they are faced with the difficult task of slowing down the Huskies’ offense. According to Yeagley, the Badgers will need to play a near-flawless game to counter the NIU offense.
“Our defensive shape up in terms of principles need to be spot on,” Yeagley said.
Making things more challenging is that Northern Illinois is not led by a single offensive position, instead offering a complete offense, since both midfielders and forwards lead the team in scoring and points.
After only narrowly defeating the MAC team last year, the Badgers are taking this year’s game against the Huskies very seriously. Nichols believes that while NIU may play in a less talented conference, the Huskies always bring a difficult challenge to UW.
“They’re a team that’s going to always step up to the competition; they can compete with anybody,” Nichols said.
NIU’s ability to step up its game was evident in its very impressive early season tie with North Carolina, currently ranked fourth nationally.
“Northern’s a team that’s going to be very disciplined, they’ll be good on restarts, which will be very important,” Yeagley said. “They’ve been battle-tested.”
Another important aspect of this game is the physical matchup, as Wisconsin’s physical skills have been crucial to their success this year. Yeagley hopes his squad emulates the strong physicality it exhibited last weekend in the Badgers’ shutout against Ohio State.
“[We need to make] sure that we’re, you know we match their physical play, which our guys I think did very well this past weekend playing against a very physical Ohio State team,” Yeagley said.
Providing further motivation for the team is senior night at the McClimon Soccer Complex, the final regular season home game for all the UW seniors. They, and coach Yeagley, hope to end their playing careers at Wisconsin with a bang.
“Hopefully we’ll have a great crowd — it’s our senior night, these nine seniors that we have, we’re going to honor them before the match,” Yeagley said. “[It will be a] great match — both teams are hungry and we’re on a good run, and we expect a really good battle come Wednesday night.”