The chances were abounding for Wisconsin to beat rival Milwaukee Wednesday night, but on par with their recent play, one goal was all it took for the Panthers to triumph over the Badgers by a score of 1-0. A mirage of late-match shots kept coming from the Badgers, but much like the current state of their season, it was too little, too late.
Jentsch solid in return to goal
Junior Max Jentsch returned to the starting goalkeeper position Wednesday night after relinquishing his job in the season opener against Memphis. The experienced Jentsch was forced to give up his position to highly touted freshman Chase Rau and compete for his job again in every practice. He finally earned the starting job back this week, and although he wasn’t the winning goalie, Jentsch exceeded his teammates’ and coaches’ expectations.
“As always, Max was a good, solid goalkeeper for us. He gave us a good presence,” head coach John Trask said. “I was pleased with his performance. I don’t think it was his performance that let us down at the end of the day.”
At the end of his day, Jentsch had made two saves on the night, with the memorable one coming in the 19th minute as Milwaukee applied pressure early in the game. His diving stab came just minutes after a surprise crossing pass found no Milwaukee offenders and the shot approached the goal box. Jentsch stuffed both opportunities, but eventually the persistent Panthers turned their chances into a score early in the second half.
A defensive miscue was all the Panthers needed to get in position for the winning goal and Jentsch was stuck defending a wide-open goal by his lonesome. Although the allowed goal cost the Badgers the game, Jentsch’s teammates stood behind him for his quality performance in return.
“I would give him an A, for sure,” defender AJ Cochran said in grading Jentsch’s game Wednesday. “The goal was not his fault, whatsoever. He stepped in and he played awesome.”
Badgers running out of chances
Last season’s nonconference victories came in bunches as the Badgers won six games from outside the Big Ten. This season, those victories have come few and very far in between. Of their 10 nonconference matches, the Badgers have won only three, piling up a record of just 3-4-3.
A strong nonconference schedule can do wonders to boost any team’s NCAA tournament résumé, and Wisconsin’s performances against top 10 teams such as Georgetown and Marquette have been worthy of praise. However, their only nonconference victories have come against IUPUI, Cleveland State, and Memphis in late August.
Another possible résumé-building victory escaped the Badgers grasp Wednesday night and they are starting to feel like they are losing out on multiple chances.
“If we don’t take our chances with these [nonconference] games, it ruins our RPI points,” junior forward Toni Ramadani said. “That will eventually ruin our chances of a bid to the NCAA tournament, so every game is important right now, conference or nonconference.”
Coach Trask could care less about the postseason at this point in the season as the Badgers are just 1-3 in their last four games.
“We’re not worried about the NCAA tournament at this point. We’re worried about every minute we are practicing and playing,” Trask said. “We are not a good enough soccer team at this point…our challenge tomorrow is to continue to get these guys to work to get better.”
Trask left undecided for Saturday
Along those lines lays another challenge for Trask in deciding who will be the Badgers’ goalie for their weekend match against Michigan.
Jentsch started the season but Rau played well in his place before Jentsch claimed the spot again. Multiple players have stated just how close the two competing teammates are and how the team is comfortable regardless of who controls the back end of the defense.
However, at the beginning of the season, Trask noted his reluctance to have a rotation of goalkeepers. Rau’s 2012 experience and Jentsch’s strong play have left the coach in a quandary.
“Max looked good and focused before the game and I think he had a good performance,” Trask said. “I’ve got a very tough decision for Saturday on who is going to be in the nets.”