As far as heartbreaking losses go, the Wisconsin women’s soccer team might lead the Big Ten. After losing less than a week ago to Nebraska on a last-second double overtime goal, Wisconsin fell to border rival Minnesota (10-5-2, 3-4-2 Big Ten), 1-0, in yet another double overtime game Thursday at McClimon Soccer Complex. The Badgers (9-5-2, 4-4-1 Big Ten), who are now in fifth place in the Big Ten, find themselves in a tough battle to stay in one of the top eight spots in the Big Ten in order to earn a trip to the conference tournament.
It was a defensive contest throughout the first two halves as neither team could tally a goal in regulation. Wisconsin nearly ended it with five minutes to go in regulation when Kinley McNicoll hit a corner that was batted around the box before Brianna Stelzer got a foot on the ball and hit a shot that went up and hit off the cross bar. Many players on the field and people in attendance thought it had gone in. Despite outshooting the Gophers in regulation, 28-13, Wisconsin couldn’t come away with a goal the rest of the way and entered their fifth overtime game of the season. Defender Kylie Schwartz said Coach Paula Wilkins told them to leave it all out on the field as they entered the first of two overtime periods.
“[Coach Wilkins] said just keep working hard,” Schwartz said. “You have like ten or twenty minutes to put it all on the field and leave everything here. We have two days off so work as hard as you possibly can and try to finish our chances.”
Finishing the night with eleven shots on goal, UW couldn’t get one past Minnesota’s goalkeeper, Tarah Hobbs, who Wilkins said play very well. Hobbs finished with ten saves on the night.
“We just didn’t bury our chances,” Wilkins said. “We had eleven shots on goal and credit their goalkeeper for making that many saves.”
Wisconsin couldn’t finish those chances, however, as the first overtime followed much of the same blueprint from regulation. Once again neither team could deliver the decisive golden goal. It was in the second overtime that things began to pick up for both the Badgers and Gophers.
Less than a minute into the second overtime, Minnesota’s Katie Thyken weaved her way around the Badger defenders and into the box. From there she fired a shot that went just inches to the left of the goal, allowing the game to press on. UW then moved the ball downfield where Rose Lavelle drilled a bender in the 102nd minute that went just wide right. A few minutes later, it was Cara Walls’ turn, but she blasted a shot that was saved by Hobbs.
The game winning goal came in the 108th minute when Thyken hit a cross from the end line that found Haley Halverson. Halverson then took a couple of dribbles and knocked in the game winning goal past Wisconsin’s Genevieve Richard giving the Badgers their fourth conference loss of the season and fifth overall.
Although they gave up just the one goal, Wilkins wasn’t happy with how the team defended and took blame for that.
“I think one of our biggest problems that we have is our defending isn’t very good,” Wilkins said. “I’ll take responsibility as a coach for that. That needs to be better.”
As the Big Ten season comes to a close, the last two games for Wisconsin are arguably their most important as they try to lock up one of the top eight spots in the Big Ten and reach the conference tournament.
Wilkins understands the importance of their final two regular season games, against Indiana and Northwestern, and knows what the team has to do.
“We have to win the next two games to get in the Big Ten tournament and that’s what we’re going to have to focus on,” Wilkins said before adding. “We have to defend better.”
Walls knows that they have the talent to beat anyone, and they will have to showcase that talent against Indiana and Northwestern in order to get to the Big Ten tournament.
“We’ve always known that we are a good team and that we can beat anyone,” Walls said. “So it’s just putting it back together so that we come out with a win.”