As the spring season is getting underway for the Wisconsin men’s soccer team, the improvements and confidence are already beginning to show.
To start the spring season, Wisconsin got out to a quick start in its first game by beating Green Bay 3-2. Nick Janus, Chris Prince and Joey Tennyson scored the goals for the Badgers in the March 25 contest.
The Badgers followed that up with a 0-0 tie against Louisville, a perennially national top-10 team. The team is scheduled to meet with Western Illinois, Marquette and DePaul before the spring season concludes in early May.
Despite being able to only watch the Badgers play against Louisville, head coach John Trask has been impressed with the way the team has performed this spring. Trask spent some time away from Madison by lending his hand as an assistant coach for the U-23 Men’s National Team alongside Akron head coach Caleb Porter.
“It is always nice because everyone there is a professional,” Trask said. “Coach Porter was fantastic.”
In the short time he’s been back, Trask is already using the knowledge he gained from Porter to improve his team. After a brief stint with one of the nation’s best coaches, he has much more knowledge to teach the players and help them improve. And he wouldn’t have been able to go without the support of his assistant coaches and UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez.
“I am very fortunate in having two great assistant coaches in Keith Tiemeyer and Phil Presser,” Trask said. “I left the program for almost four months with the National Team.”
Trask was not the only person from the team who received a special treat this offseason, as sophomore A.J. Cochran was chosen to participate in the U-20 Men’s National Training Camp. The weeklong camp is held in Florida and invites the top 36 players in the age division, giving Cochran a chance to improve his skills with the country’s best.
Cochran started in 18 of the 20 games for the Badgers last season and was a unanimous selection to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
“It was great just going and playing with the best kids in the country,” Cochran said. “Not only did it get me in shape, I was able to come back and help the rest of the team get in better shape.”
Wisconsin is coming off a 10-8-2 season before falling to Penn State in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.
The loss was difficult, but the Badgers knew they had made strides and could use that as momentum coming into the spring season, where the confidence has already gone up after the first two games.
“We want to be able to dictate the game to the other team,” Trask said. “We want to make our own plays.”
“We had a good record last year by going 10-8-2,” Cochran added. “We have a good confidence going into next season.”
The team is a tight-knit group of players who, after being together for at least a year now, are beginning to coalesce and become a fluid unit. But, as in any sport, true team chemistry is developed not during the season but well before it.
That’s why the coaching staff is working the team hard and can see it paying off.
“The guys have been working hard,” Trask said. “This allows me to be tougher on them.”
Trask has also been pleased to see next year’s leaders emerge on a team brimming with youth. The Badgers anointed forward Prince, defender Kyle McCrudden and defender/midfielder Paul Yonga as team captains. Both Prince and Yonga are going to be juniors next year, while McCrudden will be one of four seniors left on the team.
“[Being a captain] is a huge responsibility,” said Yonga, who started 35 games in 2011. “But at the same time, it is a big honor.”