The University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team looks to continue its winning ways tonight when it plays host to the University of Illinois-Chicago Ramblers.
The Badgers (6-1-1) will be playing in only their fourth game in the past 25 days.
Like the rest of the country, Wisconsin had changes and cancellations in its schedule because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. However, the Badgers also had Sunday’s Big Ten opener against Ohio State postponed due to the tragic death of Connor Senn, a Buckeye freshman defender who collapsed on the field in OSU’s game against Akron and later died.
Despite the unfortunate layoffs, the Badgers could be a better team because of them.
“The layoffs could be a positive thing for us, with so many games coming up,” said UW head coach Kalekeni Banda. “It is time for us to heal emotionally as well as physically with the injuries we’ve had.”
Senior defenseman Scott Repa echoed Banda’s thoughts.
“Any extra time to heal and prepare is good, especially with the young team we have,” said Repa. “But we are anxious to play.”
Wisconsin starts a stretch tonight of playing three games in five days. UW begins it by running into a hot team in UIC, who after starting 0-3 have rebounded to win five games in a row, including a victory over Big Ten rival Northwestern last week. The Flames are led by sophomore Dennis King, the team leader in scoring and owner of a hat trick earlier in the season. Although Wisconsin has its own offensive weapons, it still starts with defense.
Repa, who was named Big Ten defensive player of the week, leads the defense along with goalkeeper Moriba Atiba Baker. There is cause for concern with Baker, who has been suffering from a nagging shoulder injury that occurred late in the Marquette game, as well as a pulled groin. Despite the injuries he is expected to play tonight.
“I took it easy the last couple of days, so I will definitely be ready for Wednesday,” Baker said.
Despite the effectiveness of the Wisconsin defense, the key is still the offense, which all season has been led by seniors Dominic DaPra and Aaron Lauber. The two playmakers have combined to score 14 of the teams 17 goals, which is about 82 percent of the team’s total.
“Right now we have a two-headed monster,” says Banda of Lauber and DaPra. “We need to work hard to keep the ball and get it to those guys to make something happen.”
This game is very important to the Badgers, who seem to be on the verge of putting things together. A total offensive and defensive team effort would give this team some much needed momentum as they come upon their toughest stretch of the season. Despite UIC’s 5-3 record, the Badgers are definite favorites to win this game.
“We want to score early and put the pressure on,” said Baker. “We want to have a little fun.”
Game time is set for 7:00 p.m. at the McClimon Track and Soccer Complex.