After starting the Big Ten season 0-3, there were questions whether the University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team would win a conference game all season. But following Sunday’s win at home over Michigan State 5-3, UW is not only thinking .500 in the conference, but also going deep into the Big Ten tournament which is being held next weekend in Madison.
However, Wisconsin must look to the present. Today, the Badgers travel to Evanston, Ill., to face a Northwestern team (0-11-3, 0-5 in the Big Ten) that hasn’t won a game all season. Although UW will be a big favorite, the memory of last Friday’s 3-2 loss to Northern Illinois, a team with just four wins all season, is still fresh in their minds.
“We can’t lower ourselves to play at their level,” freshman midfielder David Martinez said. “We just have to go in there, play hard and not underestimate them.”
The Wildcats have been outscored 29-9 this season, and those nine goals average out to a little more than half a goal a game. But last Sunday, NU tied Northern Illinois 2-2. Last season, UW was more than happy to squeak out a 2-1 win at home against Northwestern.
This is a game UW just wants to go play and pull out a win as the season winds down.
Buckeyes up next: After the Badgers’ game today, they return home for a Sunday afternoon contest against the Ohio State Buckeyes. This game was originally scheduled for Sept. 30 but was cancelled due to the tragic death of Ohio State freshman defensemen Connor Senn.
The Buckeyes (10-3-2, 1-2-1 in the Big Ten) come into the game as one of the hottest teams in the country. They are 4-1-1 in their last six games and recorded one of the biggest wins in their program’s history by upsetting No. 5 St. John’s 3-2 in double overtime in New York last Sunday. With their recent streak, the Buckeyes have been catapulted to No. 14 in the national rankings.
Ohio St. has a balanced attack led by junior forward Andy Rosenband and sophomore forward Justin Cook, who are tied for the team lead with five goals. As with most good teams, the Buckeyes are especially tough as the game wears on, outscoring the opposition 17-7 in the second half and overtime.
But OSU is definitely beatable. On the road this season, they’re a mere 3-3-1, while Wisconsin is 5-2-1 at home. The Buckeyes could also be tired coming into Wisconsin. They play a tough Michigan team in an emotional home finale just the day before.
This game is also big for both teams as it is the last game before the Big Ten tournament, which starts a week from today. Any momentum picked up before the season ending tournament is definitely a positive.
Martinez, Van Sicklen shine: The emergence of freshman midfielder David Martinez and freshman forward Nick Van Sicklen has been a shining moment as the season nears a close. With senior offensive leaders Dominic DaPra and Aaron Lauber finishing off spectacular careers at Wisconsin, some younger players will definitely be counted on to pick up the slack.
“[DaPra and Lauber] have done so much for me,” Martinez said. “Everybody knows their names, but nobody knows me yet.”
The freshman rising stars will be household names very soon if they continue to play as they did last Sunday. Against Michigan State, Martinez scored two goals and had an assist on three shots, while Van Sicklen added a goal on three shots.
Martinez and Van Sicklen are currently third and fourth respectively on the team in goals scored, behind Lauber and DaPra.
Big Ten tournament in Madison: As the Badgers prepare to host the Big Ten men’s soccer tournament this season, they have one goal as a team.
“Our main focus is to make it to Sunday,” Martinez said. “If that does not happen, considering we are hosting it, we will be very disappointed.”
The tournament starts on Thursday, Nov. 8th,with the semifinals on the next day, Nov. 9th. After an off day on Saturday, the finale is Sunday afternoon.
Record still within reach: As the career winds down of senior forward Dominic DaPra, one record is still within reach. With 15 goals this season, DaPra is three behind the Wisconsin all-time single season leader, Todd Zoschke, who scored 18 goals in 1984. DaPra is firmly supplanted as the fourth leading goal scorer in Wisconsin history with 30.