Friday and Sunday presented the 18th-ranked University of Wisconsin Badgers with arguably their toughest weekend series yet this season at the McClimon Soccer Complex. Friday’s game against the eighth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions was UW’s third game against a ranked opponent and Sunday’s match came against an Ohio State squad that received votes for the Top-25 poll.
The Badgers (8-2-2, 3-1-1 Big Ten) bounced back Sunday, with a 1-0 win in overtime against the Ohio State Buckeyes (7-3-2, 1-2-1 Big Ten). After a physical 2-1 loss to Penn State (10-2-1, 4-1 Big Ten), it was apparent the game had taken its toll on the Badgers as they were only able to gather one shot on goal in both halves of Sunday’s game against Ohio State. The Buckeyes had their chances, with six shots on goal for the game, but couldn’t get one past UW’s goalkeeper, Genevieve Richard, who posted her third shutout in the last four matches. Friday night’s game was expected to be fast paced with a lot of scoring chances for both teams.
“I think Genevieve was very good at what she did,” Wilkins said. “I think she came up with some very key saves in the game.”
The first two halves ended in a scoreless tie with neither team owning much advantage throughout the game. UW nearly ended the game five minutes into overtime when Kylie Schwarz hit a long pass to Rose Lavelle who drew the Buckeye’s goalie away from the goal but ultimately had her shot knocked away by an Ohio State defender. They didn’t have to wait much longer to end the game, and get their eighth win of the season.
Senior Alev Kelter raced down the left side of the field and centered a pass through the box where junior Nikki Greenhalgh was in position to head it in and win the game for the Badgers. It was only the second goal of the season for Greenhalgh but it was by far the most important.
“Amazing, it was just pretty magical,” Greenhalgh said about her golden goal. “We were fighting hard all game and it was good to come out with a win.”
It was a big win for UW, especially after the loss to Penn State. The Badgers have six more Big Ten matches and are currently tied with Michigan for third place in the conference behind Nebraska and Penn State. Wilkins knew Sunday’s game was a big step forward as the team looks towards the rest of the season.
“Every game we learn from and they add some character with the different circumstances we deal with,” Wilkins said. “I’m encouraged, and I think we get a much needed physical break, which we haven’t had this season. We want to give them a little bit of a break and get right back for Illinois.”
Nittany Lions snap Badgers’ unbeaten run in Big Ten
Expectations of a tough contest were met as the Nittany Lions and Badgers combined for 31 shots with 12 of those being on goal. In the end, it was the Nittany Lions who emerged victorious with a 2-1 win over UW.
The first 30 minutes remained scoreless before Penn State’s leading scorer, Maya Hayes, found Tani Costa for the first score of the game. Just five minutes later in the 35th minute, Hayes tacked on her 13th goal of the season getting assists from Mallory Weber and Taylor Schram. A two-goal first-half deficit wasn’t what the Badgers and coach Paula Wilkins, who was coaching against her former team, were hoping for.
“I think we had some mental lapses defensively and we needed to do a little better with that,” Wilkins said. “[Penn State’s] pressure in the first half was good. It showed us a little bit of what we need to be able to do to be at that level.”
Things started to turn around for the Badgers in the second half. Freshman Rose Lavelle notched the Badgers’ lone goal of the game, knocking in a deflected pass from sophomore Kinley McNicoll in the 65th minute.
“I just remember [McNicoll] taking it to the end line, crossing it and one of the Penn State players tried to clear it but it popped up,” said Lavelle. “I saw it pop up, and I just hit it.”
The Badgers continued to fight and pressure the Nittany Lions for the rest of the second half, but to no gain. The eighth-ranked Nittany Lions were just too much to handle for the Badgers. Despite the loss, junior defender Alexandra Heller was upbeat about competing well against such a strong opponent.
“I think we were able to play against them,” Heller said. “The fact that we were able to play against them so much was really good. We just need to be able to finish our chances the next time.”