As the Wisconsin men’s soccer team enters Big Ten play, the Badgers will square off in Bloomington against their heated rivals, Indiana, now led by UW’s former head coach.
Sunday’s game at Indiana (5-3-0, 1-0-0 Big Ten) will be a chance for Wisconsin to showcase its talent in front of current Hoosiers head coach Todd Yeagley, who ended his one-year tenure at UW to take the spot at his alma mater.
Senior goalkeeper and captain Ryan Vint says squaring off against Yeagley should serve as more of a motivation than a distraction for the team.
According to Vint, the Badgers will try to show they are better without Yeagley. Instead, his presence will further promote a sense of competitiveness to a game that is already of utmost importance to UW.
Current Wisconsin head coach John Trask wants to downplay that element of the matchup.
“Is there going to be extra emphasis from us…because Todd was our coach a year ago? If that’s what it takes for us to get up for a game – to prove the coach wrong for leaving – that’s not what we’re trying to build here,” Trask, a former Indiana coach and player, said.
Wisconsin (1-6-1) has struggled recently against Indiana, dropping last year’s Big Ten opener to IU 1-0 and then losing again to the Hoosiers 2-0 in the Big Ten Tournament to end UW’s season. Indiana leads the all-time series with Wisconsin 32-3-4.
“It’s not going to be tough to get prepared for it,” Vint said. “It’s just one of those games that you just naturally come ready to play. Being voted last in the Big Ten polls was a pretty big reason for me to show all of the Big Ten that we are not here to just get stepped on.”
Like last season, Wisconsin has scored only five goals eight games into the season and has not converted on many scoring opportunities.
Vint said the team could benefit from taking all the “half chances,” or opportunities that do not give players a perfect shot on goal but still put pressure on the opposing defense and goalkeeper.
Freshman Chris Prince may soon be a solution as he has impressed coaches and teammates so far this season, already earning a starting position at forward in six games. While Prince is tied for third on the team in total shots and shots on goal this season, he has yet to connect for a goal.
“Any goal scorer will tell you a lot of it is confidence, and confidence comes from hitting the back of the net,” Trask said. “If Chris Prince could tickle the back of the net, all of a sudden, he becomes a much more dangerous threat every time we move down the field as a unit.”
The IU squad boasts a high-powered offense featuring forwards Will Bruin and Andy Adlard, who have each scored 15 points and combined for 10 goals this season. Additionally, Hoosier midfielders Nikita Kotlov and Harrison Petts each have assisted in three goals thus far.
“Obviously, we’ll have to keep an eye on Will Bruin; he’s a great player,” senior defender and captain Aaron Nichols said. “I think it’s going to come down to being focused for the entire 90 minutes…and never making those small mistakes. Keeping good principle defensively and working together as a team, knowing that we have each others’ back [on tackles will be key].”
The Badgers are coming off a discouraging loss at Marquette Tuesday, a game Trask said was not the most motivating environment for the players.
According to Trask, Wisconsin’s loss against Marquette was the first game in which the team failed to surpass its performance form the prior game.
“Hopefully to me there is a level of excitement going into the Big Ten season that we didn’t see [Tuesday] night,” Trask said. “Hopefully it was a ‘one off’ and we’ll be ready to really put our best foot forward this weekend.”