One team is rising, the other team is a perennial powerhouse and the Wisconsin women’s soccer team faces both this weekend.
The Badgers are prepared for their most difficult task of the season so far, and the chore will not consist of stomaching the stench of Gary, Ind. After heading west last weekend to see the Rocky Mountains, Wisconsin (1-1) came home with a win and a loss. After starting the season undefeated with a 4-2 win over Colorado, the Badgers were not as fortunate against Colorado College. After out-shooting the Tigers 17-8, UW was stymied and could not find the back of net more than once, falling 2-1.
Today Wisconsin will take on Oakland (Mich.) University and will follow on Sunday against Notre Dame. For head coach Dean Duerst and the Badgers, this merely marks another weekend and another road trip; the Badgers will have nine more weekends like this before the season concludes. Initiation begins today with a match against Oakland, which is sandwiched between Detroit and Flint, and wraps up in South Bend against the Fighting Irish on Sunday. Oakland (2-0) earned the respect of many by pounding UW-Green Bay 5-1 and then beating No. 24 Marquette 2-1 en route to winning the Verizon Wireless Tournament last weekend.
“(Oakland is) coming off two great wins,” Duerst said. “They have a tremendous player and a player that we’ll need to pay a little special attention to. I think our players are going to be hungry for a victory. I think we got one stolen away from us [last] Sunday, and we just need to take it out a bit on Oakland.”
Notre Dame (2-0), ranked third nationally, was able to knock off 25th-ranked Hartford and No. 8 Penn State last weekend even during the absence of three key Irish forwards, proving that the team is not dependent on any one player.
“[They have] several players that can put the ball in the net. Notre Dame has a great team going here,” said Hartford head coach Ewa Bergsten.
With 28 straight home victories and an astounding 101-3-1 record over the last 105 games, in which they outscored their opponents by the absurd margin of 72-12, Notre Dame has more of a dynasty in progress than anything else.
“We’re really excited to play Notre Dame,” Duerst said. “I think our team is confident. We need to go in there with some confidence, assertiveness and aggressiveness. It’s a good opportunity to get a lot of information early on, what it may take to play in a national championship.”
Freshman forward Amy Vermeulen shrugs all big-game pressure.
“(It’s) just like every game. You just have to go in thinking it’s just a regular game and you’ll be fine,” Vermeulen said.
Duerst feels that his team can rob both Oakland and Notre Dame of their perfect records and, considering his team’s performances in Colorado, it is within the Badgers’ grasp.
“This will be a good preview of what every weekend will be like for Wisconsin. [We are] going to see a lot of games like this,” Duerst said. “Sometimes you’re loose on the road and you can just go in and take somebody by surprise. We played well [last] weekend; now it’s just a matter of being a little bit better on our chances we’re creating. We’ve got the talent [to win].”