Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Fall semester sports wrap up

How does one judge a semester of sporting success?

Wins and losses? Postseason prowess? Rivalry triumphs? Individual accolades?

Maybe all of the above.


By any account, the achievements of UW’s sporting squads this semester were unquestionably questionable, most definitely indefinite. Wins came in bunches, crippling losses were suffered, vindication was often found and, by the end, everyone left the party at least somewhat fulfilled.

The football squad illustrated perfectly this semester’s often maddeningly inconsistent UW sports teams.

Even with freshmen heavily dotting the roster, a 5-0 start raised hopes high. Then came reality. The Badgers were young and seemed always one play, one more year of experience away from topping the ranked teams they lost narrowly to: Penn State, Michigan and Fiesta Bowl-bound Ohio State.

The 20-3 beating distributed by Iowa, the best team in the nation not named Miami, was understandable. The fourth-quarter collapse against Indiana, disheartening. The 319 passing yards put up by Illinois’ Jon Beutjer, disgusting.

But vindication isn’t quite as sweet if heartbreak doesn’t precede it. The Badgers ended their season, Paul Bunyan’s Axe in hand, by snatching that elusive seventh win they had been tracking down all Big Ten season.

UW was bowl-bound, headed down to the heart of Texas and the Alamo. Brooks Bollinger, Ben and Al Johnson, Jake Sprague and the rest of the seniors didn’t have to go home for the holidays for the second year in a row, a victory in itself.

In the way of individual contributions, one player stands high above the rest, despite his 5-foot-8 frame. Jimmy Leonhard, the walk-on safety, the one legitimate, reliable playmaking threat on the UW roster, rewrote record books with 10 picks and proved a diminutive white safety couldn’t only hang with the Big Ten boys, he could pick off their passes and return their punts for touchdowns. rewarded Leonhard: first-team all-American. And once again, the guy isn’t on scholarship.

After stumbling early in Big Ten play, Pete Waite’s volleyball team won nine of its last 11 matches, securing the No. 14 seed in the NCAA tourney and locking up the Field House as a host site for the first two rounds of action, a testament to fan devotion and the team’s drawing power.

Waite’s team couldn’t just waltz by a determined Miami Hurricanes squad, who topped the Badgers in four games, knocking them out of the tournament. Erin Byrd, who finished her UW career second on the all-time kills list, and setter Morgan Shields were rewarded for their stellar play all season with AVCA all-region honors.

Men’s soccer was the definition of a successful mediocre team. Its record: 9-9 overall, 3-3 in the Big Ten. After a four-game skid that included losses to Dartmouth and UW-Milwaukee, first-year coach Jeff Rohrman’s team won its final two Big Ten contests to get back to .500.

Despite falling to Penn State 1-0 in the Big Ten Tournament and failing to make the NCAA field, Rohrman’s team impressed throughout the year. Goalkeeper Eric Hanson established himself as a highly functional wall in the net, posting a 1.45 goals-against average and notching five shutouts.

Forward/midfielder Nick Van Sicklen was unquestionably the Badgers’ top player, as the Madison native led the team in goals (seven) and tied for the team lead in assists (five) en route to earning All-Big Ten and all-region honors.

The women proved to be the more successful soccer squad in 2002, as they wound up with a 10-7-3 regular-season record after winning their last three matches. After advancing to the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 1996 with wins over Michigan State and Illinois, the Badgers almost held off a dominant Ohio State squad before falling 2-1.

Dean Duerst’s squad topped in-state rival Marquette in the first round of the NCAA tourney before the Badgers’ season ended with a 2-1 loss to Pepperdine in the second round.

Duerst’s most outstanding player was doubtless Kelly Kundert, as the junior forward scored eight goals, notched 15 assists and was named to the NCSSA all-region team.

Senior goalkeeper Kelly Conway ended her UW career with a flourish, posting six shutouts and a 1.02 goals-against average.

Flying low under the radar, UW’s most successful team this season was also, sadly, its most unnoticed. The men’s cross-country squad enjoyed as much success as any Wisconsin team has in recent memory.

Led by Big Ten Athlete of the Year Matt Tegenkamp, the Badgers proved they were far and away the top Big Ten team, winning the Big Ten Championships with their largest margin of victory since 1919, before racing to a second-place finish to Stanford in the NCAA Cross Country Championship.

And individual accolades? Tegenkamp led the way, but Isaiah Festa, Adam Wallace and promising frosh Bobby Lockhart all joined him in earning all-American honors, the sixth time the Badgers have seen at least four of their runners named all-Americans.

And so that’s it. Another semester of sporting successes and failures is nearly over, with the Badgers’ Alamo Bowl date with Colorado the only contest left for the major fall sports.

Was it a semester of perfection? Hardly. The football team made fans sweat heavily, and even the dominant cross-country team couldn’t win it all.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t successful. Big games were won, big goals and points were scored. The collective record of the soccer, football and volleyball teams — 53-34-3 — proves that the Badgers were contenders, and successful ones at that.

Now it’s onward, toward hoops and hockey, softball and track. With the fall semester over, it’s time to look ahead, but not before taking a long look back.

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