After drawing with the University of Missouri-Kansas City 1-1 in their season opener, the Wisconsin Men’s soccer team will be taking on Western Michigan in their home opener in search of their first win.
Even though the team didn’t leave Kansas City with a win, they were able to make the big plays when necessary and keep calm under pressure. After giving up a goal in the 18th minute, Wisconsin showed resiliency by being able to fight back and score the equalizer just before half.
“It was our first game so in the beginning we were playing a little tentative and safe,” senior Nick Janus said. “Toward the second half we started playing better defense, applying a bit more pressure and we created some really good chances.”
The year looks very promising for the cardinal and white. Wisconsin is touting one of the most experienced lineups in the Big Ten, with 13 seniors returning to the team.
“With the confidence we have in ourselves, and the confidence the coaches have in us,” Janus said. “I think we have a real chance to make a little bit of history.”
Despite being a senior-laden roster, Wisconsin has a few standout young players this year that are hoping to make an immediate impact. Three of Wisconsin’s up and coming offensive stars made notable appearances last week. Nick Jones, Brian Hail, Skyler Felt, all freshman, combined for 218 minutes of play and six shots against Kansas City. The group of freshman did a majority of their work in the second half as the pressured the Roos heavily and attacked the goal.
To round out the new players, redsirt freshman goaltender Casey Beyers won the starting position before play began this year and hasn’t looked back. The 6-foot-5 Maryland native will be looking for his first shut out after recording four saves and playing all 110 minutes of last week’s double overtime bout with Kansas City.
Between the posts facing off against Beyers will be former Badger Chase Rau. Rau started for the Badgers off and on last season before seemingly losing his starting job in the spring. Citing personal and scholarship issues, Rau returned to his home state of Michigan to play for the Broncos with the consent of Wisconsin head coach John Trask last spring.
The sentiment was universal at Badger practice this week, Rau is a good friend, but he is still an opponent.
“He is a friend of the program,” Trask said. “We wish him the best of luck. I hope he wins every game, and stops every goal except for against us this weekend.”
“Chase is our bro; he’s a friend,” Beyers added. “We all love him and it will be cool to see him, but the second he crosses that line he becomes our enemy.”
In the last three meetings with the Broncos, the Badgers hold a commanding advantage. Wisconsin shut out Western Michigan in all three meetings to earn their 3-0-0 record against them. However with a former Badger starting for the Broncos, Western Michigan could be looking to steal a win from Wisconsin in Madison this Friday.
For the Badgers the key to the game is simple. Play solid defense, control the pace of the game, and take chances. If they can do that, Beyers is confident that they can earn their first win of the season.
“We have to keep our tempo and our defensive shape throughout the entire game,” Beyers said. “If we can do that and stay focused I think we have a great chance to come out with the win.”
There are high hopes in Madison for this Badger squad. With their experience, talent, coaching and confidence the team is expecting to have a breakout year. With an NCAA tournament berth possible for the Badgers this season, every game, starting this week, becomes increasingly important as Wisconsin looks to insert itself into the national spotlight.