The Wisconsin men’s soccer team lost its final game of the season 3-0 to Marquette, which does not give it a whole lot of momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament Thursday afternoon.
The fifth-seeded Badgers must also play the only team with home-field advantage in the tournament, fourth-ranked Penn State. To top things off, if the Badgers do manage to get by the Nittany Lions, they would have to face top-seed Indiana, who has received a first-round bye after winning the conference.
Things may look bleak for the Badgers at first glance, but there are a few things to remember. The team won its last two Big Ten games, and the confidence from those two wins should carry over into today’s game. It is also important to remember the Badgers put down the Nittany Lions 2-1 in a match earlier this season in Madison.
The Badgers did lose to Indiana 5-1 this year, and the Hoosiers will be a tough team to beat in the postseason, should the Badgers face them in the second round.
The Badgers will look for continued output from their younger players. Sophomore Nick Van Sicklen leads the team in points and goals but will need scoring help from captain Valentine Anozie and freshman Phil Doeh. Sicklen is also tied with sophomore David Martinez with five assists, which lead the team. Eleven different UW players have assists on the year.
Penn State’s sophomore forward Chad Severs is near the top of the Big Ten in many statistical categories and leads his team with 13 goals. Severs and the Nittany Lions should give the Badgers a tough challenge when they kick off today at 1:30 p.m. from Penn State’s Jeffrey Field.
Indiana and Northwestern were the only two Big Ten teams to not finish with a .500 conference record. The big difference is that Indiana finished 6-0, and Northwestern finished 0-6. Indiana is the only team with a first-round bye. The six other Big Ten teams must try to do in the postseason what they could not do the first time around — beat Indiana.
The Hoosiers will be without sophomore Ned Grabavoy, who scored six goals on the season, because he is away playing with the U.S. Soccer under-20 team. The team should be ready to defend its title, even with Grabavoy’s absence.
Senior forward Pat Noonan is the Big Ten’s leading scorer. Noonan leads the Hoosiers with 14 goals and is tied at nine assists with senior Ryan Mack for the team lead. The Hoosiers are legitimate contenders for the national championship, and winning the Big Ten tournament would be the first big step of that quest.
No. 2-seed Michigan will have to get around No. 7-seed Northwestern to make it to the second round. Michigan boasts a potent attack and has a legitimate shot at the Big Ten title this year, as sophomores Knox Cameron and Mychal Turpin each have 10 goals on the season. Northwestern is still looking for its first win against a Big Ten opponent this year. The winner will face either the sixth-seeded Michigan State or No.3 Ohio State in the second round. The two teams square off at 4:30 p.m.
The Buckeyes won the title two years ago and are hoping to return to that winning form this year. Senior Andy Rosenband and junior Justin Cook make up the offensive strength of the team and lead the team with seven and five goals, respectively.
OSU’s keeper Chad Brown leads the Big Ten with eight shutouts and will be a valuable asset in the postseason. Michigan players and their leader in goals and scoring, Brett Konley, will have their work cut out for them when they face the Buckeyes at 11 a.m. today.