The University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team used two goals off headers to scratch out a hard-fought 2-1 victory over in-state rival UW-Green Bay Wednesday night at the McClimon Track and Soccer Complex. Both goals were scored by senior forward Aaron Lauber.
After a slow start, the Badgers had a few nice chances around the net, led by Lauber and senior Dominic DaPra. Then, in minute 21, UW scored on a corner kick in which the ball bounced off of a few people before Lauber connected to make it 1-0.
“Our play coming out of the corner kick really didn’t work, but we got a nice bounce,” Lauber said. “I heard the goalie call it, but he didn’t get there to grab it fast enough.”
Despite the goal, Wisconsin’s play in the first half was a little sluggish. It finally came back to haunt the Badgers when, with only 23 seconds left in the half, Phoenix sophomore defensemen Darren Bartosz scored unassisted from the side of the net to tie the game.
“The goal was not really [UW goalkeeper Moriba Baker’s] fault,” Wisconsin head coach Kalekeni Banda said. “Instead it was more of a communication breakdown around the net.”
The second half began much more intensely as the Badgers scored their second goal just five minutes in on another corner kick. On this kick however, freshman Nick Van Sicklen tossed a beautiful pass to DaPra, who headed it to Lauber, who himself headed it in to give the Badgers a 2-1 lead.
“Thank God for Lauber tonight,” Banda said. “He is a really hard worker, and his effort really paid off.”
After that goal, play heated up on both sides of the field. Four yellow cards were given in an eight-minute span, and a few fights nearly broke out. DaPra was one of the Badgers warned with a yellow card.
“UW-GB is an in-state rival and one of the bigger games of the year, so there was a lot of excitement out there,” DaPra said. “You get frustrated, and things happen.”
There were numerous scoring chances in the second half as the energy level picked up. This seemed to favor UW, which made many more substitutions and at the end wore down UW-GB.
“I made a lot of substitutions basically looking to find a rhythm out there,” Banda said. “But it was also nice because we play five games in a 10-day span and we needed that fresh energy.”
The game effectively ended in minute 84, when UW-GB senior Lucas Stauber received his second yellow card of the game, equaling a red card and an automatic ejection. UW-GB played the last five minutes one man short. Despite a few late rushes, UW prevailed to improve to 3-0, while the Phoenix fell to 0-3. Not everyone with thrilled with the game, though.
“Any win is a good win,” Banda said. “But it seemed as if we were sleepwalking through parts of the game. Our execution and our focus were not there tonight.”
Despite his goals, Lauber seemed to agree with Banda.
“Our passing was really off tonight, as well as our execution,” Lauber said. “But we still found a way to win.”
With the Badgers going on the road for the first time this weekend for two tough contests, finding a way to win this game was the most important thing, no matter how ugly it looked in the process.