In response to the tough conference loss to Michigan last Sunday, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team is preparing to fight harder and dig even deeper Wednesday when they take on in-state rival UW-Milwaukee.
The matchup will be one of the most evenly-matched competitions of the season, as both teams have garnered success despite a few bumps along the way. The Panthers (10-2-1) currently occupy third place in the Horizon League, while the Badgers (9-3-1) have earned impressive wins including defeating Indiana, last year’s NCAA champion. The two teams have played some of the same names and saw similar outcomes for many. Both UW and Milwaukee defeated DePaul, Marquette, Western Illinois and Western Michigan in 2013.
But while it remains unclear who has the upper hand in Wednesday’s meeting, one thing is certain: Both teams want the win and want it badly.
“I know these guys were disappointed in the results [Sunday],” head coach John Trask said. “I like to think they’re going to come out with 110 percent effort, and it’s going to take that to get the win against Milwaukee.”
As the regular season is beginning to wrap up, with only five games remaining for Wisconsin, the countdown to playoffs makes every point in each game count that much more. Adding to the hype is the tension between the two Wisconsin schools that comes around every year.
“[Wednesday] will be a heated rivalry game,” Trask said. “We know their players, and they know our players. It’s going to be a classic battle.”
And for junior defender AJ Cochran, looking back at last year’s matchup makes it more than your average in-state rivalry.
“Last year we played a very good game against them and they beat us 1-0,” Cochran said. “That’s still burning inside us, and it’s going to be a fire we have with us on Wednesday.”
For Wisconsin, their advantage will continue to be what has helped them progress all season long.
“[On] our team, [the advantage] is our experience and maturity,” Cochran said. “We have a lot of seniors, we’ve played [Milwaukee] a lot, played at their field a lot too, which helps for an away game. We know what their atmosphere is like and know their players.”
Wisconsin’s roster this year consists of 13 seniors, most of whom have been playing together for the entirety of their college careers.
The Badgers are also very familiar with junior Panther Luke Goodnetter, who spent his freshman year at Wisconsin before transferring to Green Bay and finally ending up in Milwaukee. This season is Goodnetter’s first year on the field with the Panthers, and he has started most games for Milwaukee as a midfielder, proving himself a key player on the team.
Going head-to-head with a former teammate may give Wisconsin a little extra incentive come Wednesday, but if there’s one thing the Badgers pride themselves on, it’s the fight they have shown in each game, regardless of the opponent.
“We believe that we are a good team, and the whole season we’ve had a mentality that we’re going to make teams beat us,” Senior Nick Janus said. “We bring the fight we know we have in us and that we’ll need to beat a team like Milwaukee.”