In a tough weekend for the Wisconsin men’s soccer team, the Badgers dropped a pair of home games in heartbreaking fashion to University of California-Irvine and Memphis.
Hoping to bounce back from the painful loss to UC-Irvine, the Badgers came up short yet again Sunday at the McClimon Complex in a 2-1 loss to the Memphis Tigers.
Playing catch-up for the majority of the contest, Wisconsin surrendered a critical goal with just 11 minutes left in the game, allowing Memphis head coach Richie Grant to become the winningest coach in program history. Struggling to produce any real offensive attack in the first half against an aggressive and pesky Memphis defense, Wisconsin looked uncomfortable for much of the game.
Afterward, the Badgers admitted that they may have initially underestimated a Tigers team that is from outside the Big Ten and lacked the speed and talent of a highly-ranked team like UC-Irvine. However, the Tigers immediately proved they were deserving of their undefeated record when Thomas Shannon headed in a goal within the first five minutes of the game.
Though Wisconsin looked like the favorite heading into the game and appeared ready to pick up a win after a strong performance against UC-Irvine Friday, the Badgers looked worn out in their second game of the weekend.
“Talent alone doesn’t get it done — it’s concentration, focus and little things,” UW head coach John Trask said. “That’s the difference between a good soccer team and one that’s going to have one win, one loss, one win, one loss — and we’re moving in that direction.”
With several near-goals for the Tigers early on as a result of sloppy Badgers defense, it was apparent early on that Wisconsin was not playing at the same level it did Friday against UC-Irvine.
Sophomore midfielder Joey Tennyson was able to put one in the back of the net early in the second period, but UW was unable to capitalize on the shift in momentum. With just 10 minutes to play, Memphis’ Mark Sherrod netted the winning goal for the Tigers.
It was certainly another disappointing loss for UW, but the Badgers saw several positive aspects of their game in the two games this weekend and they are hoping to carry those into their road games next weekend.
“There’s a lot of positives. … We put the ball in the back of the net, [had] some good defensive plays, but we just got to get leads and not give up easy goals so much,” sophomore midfielder Joey Tennyson said.
Badgers miss out on big upset
UW (2-3-0) fell to UC-Irvine (6-0-0) 3-2 in double overtime Friday, putting forth a strong performance against the nation’s No. 9-ranked team. Although the Badgers appeared poised to come away with a tie, Anteater junior defender Everett Pitts netted the winning goal with four minutes to go in the second overtime.
Though Wisconsin failed to come out on top, it was able to hold UC-Irvine’s potent offense scoreless in the first half. The Anteaters looked more like the team they were expected to be in the second half, attacking the net and forcing two own-goals in the opening 10 minutes of the second period.
“I thought we played a great first half; we had them on their heels,” sophomore forward Chris Prince said. “Second half, first 20 minutes they scored two goals, and we kind of seemed a little shaky [on defense]. I think they just came out full force. They realized that we had the lead on them in the first half, so they had to come out strong.”
Although UC-Irvine got off to a 2-0 start, the Badgers responded quickly by attacking the goal and drawing a penalty kick that was converted by sophomore forward Nick Janus. Not long after Janus’ score, Prince tied it up on a great pass from UW midfielder Tomislav Zadro.
The Badgers’ defense was in top form in the first half. With several great saves by redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Ciro Martinez, UW prevented a relentless UC-Irvine offensive attack from ever getting fully comfortable.
“Last year when we played this team, in all honesty, they beat us 1-0, and they never even had to get out of first gear,” head coach John Trask said. “I hate to say we’ve improved because you hate losing a game, but I think our guys realized it too. [UC-Irvine] knew it was a tough game for them too.”
Still a young team, the Wisconsin coaching staff felt that the Badgers maturation allowed them to keep the matchup with UC-Irvine competitive. Despite the fact that the Badgers put two balls in their own net, they showed the resiliency to come back and force double overtime.
There were plenty of positives to take away from Friday’s game against the Anteaters, but Trask believes one key to the loss was the lack of a vocal, strong leader on the field.
“Getting that dominant personality doesn’t come easy,” Trask said. “I mean we’ve got some sophomores that maybe have it in them to be leaders. The senior captains are doing a great job, but in that little critical moment, no one steps up.”