On youthful teams, the youngest and most inexperienced tend to lose the luxury of learning from the sidelines.
Instead, they are expected to learn on the fly, from firsthand experience and wipe away any clues of youthfulness.
With only three seniors and six juniors, the Wisconsin women’s soccer team relies on that type of assertive development. Fortunately, the UW coaching staff hasn’t had to worry too much about the progress of freshman Kodee Williams.
“I think she’s an amazing player tactically and technically,” sophomore Alev Kelter said of Williams. “She has amazing speed, and she works well with the team.”
“She’s very confident — that’s what we need right now from the younger players, since we do have an all-around young team.”
In their frustrating start to the season, the Badgers have been forced to engage in roster rearranging due to multiple preseason injuries, specifically on the offense. With forwards Paige Adams out for the season and Laurie Nosbusch getting back into shape, Williams has managed to provide sparks for the offense and keep the Badgers’ attack dangerous.
Through four games, Williams has established herself as a constant problem for opposing defenses, leading the team with three shots-on-goal while also putting back Wisconsin’s first score of the season — and the first of her collegiate career — against Washington last weekend.
At her press conference on Monday, head coach Paula Wilkins described Williams as a “bright spot” and a bearer of new elements in the offensive bombardment.
“What Kodee brings to us is something that both Paige and Laurie lack in terms of athleticism and being able to get behind people with speed and she showed that a little bit on the weekend.”
A native of Toronto, Ontario, Williams is no newbie to top level soccer. She’s been a member of Canada’s U-15 and U-16 teams and remains in the player pool for the U-20 World Cup in two years.
It was there on the international scene in which Williams’ path began to lead her to Wisconsin. She formed a close friendship with current UW sophomore Lacey Warner, who upon attending Wisconsin, suggested to Wilkins to have a look at Williams.
“I played with Lacey for probably eight or nine years before coming [to UW] and when she came here she said ‘I love it, I love the campus and I love the coaches,’ so automatically it was going to be a school that I would look at,” Williams said.
“I visited a few other schools, but after coming here I knew that I wanted to go here right away.”
Already, Wilkins has experimented by placing Williams in different parts of the field. Listed as a midfielder, Williams has also spent time playing up top as a forward and on the flanks of the pitch, where Wilkins notes her ability to leave defenders behind her and send the cross into the box.
“I think she has the ability to be dangerous and get us closer to the goal,” Wilkins said. “I think she has a bunch of tools that we want to exploit.”
However, consistency is seen as an area where Williams could improve. Described as a “perfectionist,” Wilkins believes that Williams could do better in terms of putting a bad play behind her so it has no effect on the rest of her game.
“She’s hard on herself,” Wilkins said of Williams. “I think when she misses a shot or a breakaway or something like that she’ll put her head down and kind of wallow in that for a little bit, but I think that’s something that happens to a lot of good players.”
Once that consistency kicks in, Williams is expected to become one of the main goal scorers in the Wisconsin arsenal along with Nosbusch.
And with the ice-breaking goal already behind her, Williams looks forward to using that newfound confidence to grow into the mold of the young team over the next 14 regular season games.
“I expect to be able to play longer and just to get more fit and confident in the way I play and the way we play as a team,” she said. “I think that’s really important that we need to stick together and be connected on the field.”