The Wisconsin women’s soccer team rounded out its regular season with a commanding 3-0 win over Northwestern on a chilly November afternoon, giving the team confidence moving forward.
It was the Badgers’ first game with a goal margin greater than one since the Sept. 29th two-goal victory over Michigan State. For head coach Paula Wilkins the commanding win is a big step in the right direction as the team prepares to move into postseason play.
“It’s nice. I think the idea that we created a bunch of chances and people sacrificed in the box a little bit differently than we have in the past. I think it showed something about this team moving forward,” Wilkins said. “It’s a nice way to end this season because I think the Big Ten tournament starts a new season.”
With the 3-0 victory, the postseason, or as Wilkins called it, “the new season” begins for the Badgers, and with a new season, comes a new mindset. Going into the Big Ten tournament, the team knows each and every game they play could very well be their last.
“I think any time you go into the postseason you have to think about that this could be your last game, and I think there has to be a little more urgency. I think mature teams understand that, and I think with our youth we are going to have to spend a lot of time talking about that,” Wilkins said. “I know this game has given them some of that feeling because they knew they needed to win it.”
While overall this Wisconsin team is youthful, a select few veteran players know what the post season entails. One of those players is junior forward Cara Walls, who found the back of the net on Saturday with just more than 12 minutes giving UW a 2-0 lead.
Coming into the regular season finale, Walls knew how important it was to get a win in this game, as a loss would have kept Wisconsin out of the Big Ten tournament that allows just eight teams to compete in. Now moving forward, Walls has a lot of confidence in her team. Despite posting just a .500 Big Ten record (5-5-1) in the regular season, she believes they can compete come tournament time.
“We are always confident and we know that we have a lot of talent. It’s just coming out, like we did today, hard and ready to go. That’s what we need to bring,” Walls said. “Basically, if you lose you’re out and we don’t want to be done. We want to extend our season as long as possible so we are going to come out hard like we did today.”
Walls has started for UW in all 18 games this season, and she finished the regular season with nine goals and four assists. She is second on the team in total points with 22, trailing sophomore midfielder Kinley McNicoll, whose assist on Walls’ goal gave her a team-high 25 points.
Seniors say goodbye
As the home finale for the Badgers this season, it was also senior day for the team’s two seniors, midfielders Alev Kelter and Nicole La Petina. The senior day game is unlike any other game the player has ever experienced, dealing with the different emotions swirling around the veteran players as they take the field.
“It was for sure an experience and to have us to pull through with a win on senior day means a lot. Our team is so cohesive this year and I love them so much,” Kelter said. “It was really an honor to play my last home game with them.”
Kelter is among UW’s tougher players and has been a force to be reckoned with in the midfield all season long, having started all 18 games. While Kelter didn’t record a goal or assist Saturday, she still finished the regular season fourth on the team in points with nine, off three goals and three assists.
Looking ahead to the start of postseason play, the senior is looking at her final games just like how she approached Saturday: like any other game she has played in her career. She knows what she individually must do and what the team as a whole need to do going forward.
“I think it was just like any other game. Come and do the simple things well and just play for the team. It was just another day at the office,” Kelter said. “We need to make sure defensively that we stick together and offensively we just keep shots in the net and play as a team.”
The Badgers will likely receive the No. 8 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and face off against the top-seeded Nebraska Cornhuskers. The tournaments kick off on Wednesday, Nov. 6 in Champaign, Ill.