Coming into Sunday’s matchup against No. 17 Michigan State, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team, dating back to October 2012, was riding a 10-game unbeaten record when playing at the McClimon Complex. With a 1-0 victory against the Spartans, the Badgers have extended that unbeaten streak at home to 11 games, going 10-0-1 during that span.
With the win, UW avenged a loss they suffered to Michigan State last season in East Lansing. Being on their home turf was a big reason as to why Wisconsin was on the winning end this time around. Head coach John Trask explained how he and his players feel a sense of comfort and familiarity when playing at the McClimon.
“It’s hard to win on the road. Our guys love this place,” Trask said. “You see all the people still around. It’s college students, it’s kids from the community that we work with, it’s their parents, it’s their families and it’s the quality of the surface. This field is absolutely beautiful. So you can really play some good soccer on it, and I know our guys just love to out here.”
Home field advantage wasn’t the only factor that led Wisconsin to getting its revenge, however. The Badger back line, and senior goalkeeper Max Jentsch put up a great defensive performance. They limited Michigan State to only one shot on goal en route to shutting out the Spartan attack. This was Wisconsin’s fourth shutout of the season.
“We’ve not been able to play better teams yet this year and shut them down and today, we shut down a team that knows how to score goals,” Trask said. “I was very pleased with the defensive performance and the couple balls that Max needed to deal with in the box he came at and came strongly. Great for him to get a shutout.”
The first and only goal for the Badgers was due in large part to pesky senior midfielder Tomislav Zadro — although it was officially recorded as an own goal — with 18 minutes, 26 seconds left in the first half. Zadro has been a big part of Wisconsin’s success this season, and he discussed how being home has a positive effect on himself and the team.
“The feeling of being home, sleeping in your bed at night, eating your regular meals — it has an effect,” Zadro said. “When you travel it’s a lot harder and, I don’t know, we just feel comfortable here.”
Zadro is known as the team’s quarterback and is second on the team in points with 12 in 11 games played this season. Zadro missed three games earlier this season after having minor surgery on his meniscus in late September, but has returned to full form scoring a goal and marking one assist since his return on Oct. 11.
On the goal, senior midfielder Paul Yonga carried the ball up the sideline and when it came time to cross the ball, he didn’t see any of his teammates in a prime scoring position. He took a chance and crossed the ball in front of the goal and luckily it bounced off a Michigan State defender and went in.
Yonga, in light of the now 11-game unbeaten home streak, also discussed why the Badgers are finding so much success at home these past two seasons and acknowledged the importance of the support they receive when playing in Madison.
“The crowd that we’ve been getting this year has definitely helped us out,” Yonga said. “Coach always talks about defending your home and not let anyone come in and win. So, to have 11 straight wins at home is huge for us.”
Yonga is one of the Badgers’ stronger defenders and senior leaders, registering two goals and one assist this season. His five points on the season is second among defenders to junior defenseman AJ Cochran, who has six.
Wisconsin has three games remaining in the regular season before the Big Ten Tournament begins. Yonga and the Badgers, who are currently unranked, understand how important these final games are in regards to reaching the NCAA tournament and receiving a respectable seed.
“If we can keep going and win our last two home games and then get a good result against Northwestern, I think we’ll be doing good,” Yonga said.
The Badgers have their next game against Eastern Illinois on Wednesday, Oct. 30 and then the team will travel to face No. 19 Northwestern Nov. 3.