Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Wisconsin’s last line of defense

On any great soccer team, it is important that the heart and soul of the defense is a talented goalkeeper. The Wisconsin men’s soccer team couldn’t have found a better foundation to build on than Eric Hanson.

The senior tri-captain is a leader both on and off the field and is a big reason that the Badgers feel they have a valid shot at returning to the NCAA tournament field in 2004 — for the first time since 1995’s national championship campaign.

“He’s the consummate student athlete,” head coach Jeff Rohrman said of his goaltender. “He brings a level of success to all things, his academics, his soccer, in all areas.”


Hanson’s consistent play not only this season, but over the past two seasons, has been a stabilizing factor for a team that, especially defensively, is long on talent, but short on experience.

“I think what Eric brings is not only consistency in the goal, but also consistency outside the goal as well,” goalkeeper coach Nick Pasquarello said. “The way that he conducts himself off the field in terms of being a leader and being one of the captains is just carried onto the field in terms of his performance.”

Hanson will have to be the backstop for a group that is learning the ropes of collegiate soccer. He understands that when a player tries to be too perfect on the pitch, more mistakes are bound to happen, so he hopes his presence allows the defenders to be a little more relaxed.

“I try and give [the defenders] confidence, in that if they make a mistake, I’m hopefully there to bail them out,” Hanson said.

The senior goalkeeper not only instills confidence in this group; he is often what keeps them afloat in tight games.

“In big games we’re going to need him to make a save or two to keep us in it, or to keep us to have a lead,” said Rohrman of his demands on Hanson. “We’re relatively young in the back and having him there to kind of bring stability is a must for us.”

So far this season, Hanson has been able to keep Wisconsin in every game, although it’s been an up and down start as the team has gone just 3-3 in its first six games. More troubling has been the number of defensive breakdowns that have lead to goals, often leaving Hanson stranded with little chance of making the save.

“Our defense at times gets a little sloppy, and we could certainly bring a higher level of consistency there,” Rohrman said.

Coming into the season, Hanson had hoped to earn a handful of shutouts, but with the spotty play of the team ahead of him that has not yet been possible. Hanson, who is looking fairly grizzly these days, is hoping that more defensive consistency will lead to some clean sheets yet this season.

“I’ve made a bet that until I get a shutout, I’m going to keep this,” Hanson said referring to his thickening beard. “But it’s getting pretty boring, pretty dull.”

A clean shaven Hanson would signal the start of good things to come, as it has been the high number of goals allowed that has been the main culprit when Wisconsin has been kept out of the win column this year.

“We need more consistency in the back,” said Hanson echoing his coach’s remarks. “We’ve been scoring goals, and this is the first team I’ve been around that could score goals. So we just need to clean up the defense and get everyone on the same page and we’ll be fine.”

Right now, would be a great time for everyone to get on the same page as the next seven games will likely make or break Wisconsin’s chances of earning a bid to the NCAA tournament. At least that is what Hanson seems to think.

“We’re so close right now,” Hanson said. “[The team has] been talking and the next seven games, we have five top-25 teams, and all of them are top teams in our region, so the next seven games are big.”

For Hanson, the next seven games could help him further establish himself as one of the Big Ten’s best goalies. An all-Big Ten second team honoree a season ago, Hanson has set his sights a little higher this season. Still he knows that without success, few people are going to notice Wisconsin.

“I don’t think we get the respect around the conference we deserve,” Hanson said. “I mean, I think I deserved [first team all-Big Ten] a little last year so I have something to prove this year.”

If Hanson proves his critics around the Big Ten conference wrong this year, it will go a long way towards helping the Badgers reach another goal they have set this year, a better showing in the Big Ten. After a 1-4-1 record a year ago, this group has lofty aspirations for their finish in the Big Ten.

“Our goal is to finish top two in the Big Ten, and the Big Ten is tough,” Hanson said. “One goal games, that’s usually the difference.”

If the Badgers do finish strong in the Big Ten it will go a long way towards getting them into the NCAA tournament, which over the past few seasons has been something of a one shot deal.

“We’d like to take care of things during the season so we don’t have to win the Big Ten tournament to make [the NCAA tournament],” Hanson said.

With there being so little room for error, it is no surprise that the Wisconsin coaches are ecstatic to have such a talented veteran in the goal.

“The thing about the goalkeeping position is that a lot of the success comes from experience and knowing what to do in certain situations,” Pasquarello explained.

As a three-year starter, Hanson should be able to turn that experience into success down the stretch for the Badgers.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *