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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Keys to unlock ’06 success

[media-credit name=’GREGORY DIXON/Herald Photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′]Wsoccer_ged[/media-credit]After an extremely challenging yet successful non-conference schedule that saw the UW women's soccer team go 3-2-2, the Badgers open up conference play at home against Illinois on Friday night and Iowa on Sunday afternoon.

Last season, Wisconsin went through a tumultuous conference schedule, going 3-6-1 against their Big Ten counterparts and barely qualifying for the Big Ten tournament. Once in, Wisconsin steamrolled the field, outscoring their opponents 8-1 in three games and winning the championship.

But that's all history to the women and they have their sights set on winning a regular season crown in addition to defending their tournament championship. In order for the Badgers to achieve those goals, here are five keys the Badger women will have to keep in mind.


5) Solid Goalkeeping

While many teams have to scramble to have a solid backup goalie or even a decent starting goalie, the Badgers have been spoiled the last two seasons to have two of the best goaltenders in the Big Ten, senior Stefani Szczechowski and junior Lynn Murray.

This season, both Szczechowski and Murray have performed well in the net, allowing a combined total of eight goals and posting two shutouts. If Wisconsin is going to be successful, there's a lot of pressure on the ladies between the posts to continue their high level of play.

4) Playing with a lead

For one reason or another, Wisconsin remains a second-half team, usually digging itself a deep hole and forcing itself to play catchup. In the Badgers' last loss against Missouri, Wisconsin spotted the Tigers a 2-0 advantage before charging back, only to fall short in a 2-1 loss.

With Wisconsin playing a lot of one-goal games over the past two seasons — with an 8-10 record in those contests — the Badgers need to get the early goal, then clamp down defensively. Even so, Wisconsin has shown a lot of fight when behind, going 1-2-1 after being down at some point in the game.

"All the games are so dang close, tight and could go either way," head coach Dean Duerst said. "We could have gotten the first goal against Missouri and then the pressure is on them. I think even being down 2-0, we handled that all right. We won a game when we were down 2-0. It's a good sign that our team didn't lose themselves. They are fighters, battlers, competitors; and they want to win."

3) Kabellis must stay healthy

On a team with a lot of young talent, the so-called poster girl for the Badgers, senior forward Kara Kabellis, must stay healthy and be able to play. In the game against Missouri, Kabellis missed the game due to a one-game suspension, and the team offense suffered because of that.

It's not just Kabellis' offensive and defensive abilities that the Badgers miss when she doesn't play; it's her senior leadership and experience that is crucial to the development of Wisconsin's first-year players.

"She's got a creative flair to her game, and she also can strike the heck out of a ball," Duerst said. "She is, in essence, much like (Amy) Vermeulen from last year, who could hit a ball like a man, we say, but on the female side, she's also just instinctive in her game, and there's not an opponent coach that won't try to man-mark her or put two players on her, especially on free kicks and set plays."

2) Taylor Walsh and Elise Weber play beyond their years

With only three senior forwards on the team, the Badgers need younger players to fill that void in leadership and talent. So far this year, a pair of sophomores have stepped into the limelight and started to take control.

Through seven games, Taylor Walsh has been one of the Badgers best ball strikers, scoring a team-high three goals and dishing out two assists. On the other hand, Elise Weber has become the Badgers corner-kick specialist, accurately placing balls to give her teammates the best opportunity to score.

"Kara has been the girl for us, but now Elise and Taylor are … stepping into that role," Duerst said.

If Walsh and Weber keep producing the way they have been, Wisconsin will have a strong scoring trio, which would make them nearly impossible to defend.

"As I look at this season and our production, it's got to be able to come from [Elise, Kara and Taylor]," Duerst said. "It may not come one game for Elise, and it comes for Kara and Taylor, or maybe both or all of them have a strong game. They all have to help in that regard in terms of getting some of those goals and assists for us."

1) Team Unity

With its team foundation built primarily on new, young talent — 16 underclassmen and two transfers — in 2006, Wisconsin has to stay organized on the field, playing without making mistakes young players tend to make and buckling down on defense, all of which come from having experience on their team.

Wisconsin certainly has the talent to walk away with a lot of hardware in 2006. All they need to do is communicate with each other and believe that they can succeed. From the looks of how they played their non-conference season, the Badgers already have started to unite.

"Organization and teamwork are [what we need]," Walsh said. "The games that we have done the best [in], we've had good organization in the backfield. We haven't let any goals in or few goals in those games, and we've been able to win. The games we play really well are the games we play together really well. We feed off each other and working together which is what we need the most.

"We're a team that is going to score goals this year," Duerst said. "It's just a matter of defending as a team and finding results through great defending. We can become a Big Ten champion if we do that. We have every opportunity to win this thing."

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