The Wisconsin women’s soccer team might have some of its most important games this weekend at the McClimon Soccer Complex. Currently sitting fourth in the Big Ten standings, the Badgers (8-3-2, 3-2-1 Big Ten) will face No. 22 Nebraska (10-3-1, 5-1-0 Big Ten) Friday, and then Iowa (11-3-0, 3-3-0 Big Ten) Sunday. The Badgers will look to bounce back from their first road loss of the season this past Saturday at Illinois.
Just five points below Nebraska in the Big Ten standings, Friday’s game will be a chance for UW to earn three points with a win and move up in the conference rankings. Nebraska is one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten having won seven of its last eight games with the lone loss coming against then-No. 21 Michigan. The Cornhuskers have yet to lose a road game in the Big Ten and are currently first in the conference standings.
Badgers head coach Paula Wilkins is looking for her team to convert on scoring chances and keep attacking early against Nebraska; something they couldn’t do against Illinois.
“I thought we had possession but we weren’t dangerous,” Wilkins said. “We have to be more dangerous and have more of an attitude to be dangerous. Some of the details on transition defensively, we weren’t doing the right things so we need to focus on that … [Nebraska] has really good attackers that can break you down individually.”
The Wisconsin defense will have to be strong against two of Nebraska’s attackers, Jordan Jackson and Jaycie Johnson, tied for the lead on their team in points with 16 each. Johnson leads the Cornhuskers in goals with seven and Jackson leads the team in assists with six.
Freshman midfielder Rose Lavelle realizes the importance of beating the top team in the Big Ten, knowing the conference race will come down to the last few weeks of the season. The Badgers have been helped by other teams throughout the year by losing important games, but Lavelle and the rest of her team want to take matters into their own hands this weekend.
“It would be huge. We really need to beat Nebraska,” Lavelle said. “We need to take some points from them since they have 15 and are obviously in first place. Losing against Illinois was not good for us but luckily Penn State lost. So far every time we’ve slipped up a little bit, other teams have picked it up for us. We need to win this weekend so we don’t have to depend on other teams anymore.”
Sunday’s game against Iowa will be yet another tough test for Wisconsin who is just one point ahead of Iowa in the Big Ten standings. Despite being just 3-3 in conference play, Wilkins doesn’t believe that their record has been a true indication of how good they really are.
“Iowa has done really well,” Wilkins said. “They just came off of a win over Indiana and they’re always a very good team. I don’t know if their results would necessarily show that in the Big Ten but they have some very dangerous players.”
Iowa is one of the best teams in the Big Ten in striking first. The Hawkeyes have scored the first goal of the game in 11 of their 14 matches and have gone on to win all 11 of those. UW hasn’t been able to score early their past few games but they want to change that trend this weekend and counter what Iowa wants to do.
It will be tough to score against Iowa goalkeeper Hannah Clark whose seven shutouts rank her first among Big Ten goalies. Her 0.78 goal per game average is also good for third in the Big Ten.
“Our problem has kind of been we wait until we really need to score or start playing good to give it everything,” Lavelle said. “We need to come out strong and fast right from the beginning and not wait until we absolutely need to.”
Two wins and six points are the two goals for Wisconsin this weekend. The “road warriors” will try to establish their dominance at home this time and move up the Big Ten standings with a pair of victories.