Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


‘Challenge me’

Jessie Vetter handles nerves the same way she does opponents: by shutting them out.
The similar treatment is not a coincidence; there's a direct correlation between the two. Vetter's ability to block out nerves has allowed her to shut out opponents time and time again in pressure situations.

And with that, the secret behind the success of two-time NCAA Champion is out — pressure doesn't get to Vetter.

Need proof? Go back to her freshman year of high school. Vetter started right away for the Monona Grove High School girls' soccer team and took the Silver Eagles all the way to the state championship. There, under intense pressure, Vetter refused to allow a goal for the duration and found herself facing penalty kicks to determine the new state champion.


She saved a few of them too to help her team to a 3-2 victory in the shootout. Tack on two more state championship wins, a pair NCAA hockey titles, and eight years later, Vetter has faced pressure just as intense as the shots that have come at her. She has rejected them both.

"The day of [big games] I'm pretty relaxed; I'm just excited about having the opportunity to play good teams," Vetter said. "That's what I want, having more than 10 shots in a game. I want people to challenge me. I want the opportunity to make big plays."

Playing in four consecutive state championships during high school for Jeff Vitense's Monona Grove soccer team — winning three of them — has given Vetter plenty of experience handling nerves and making big plays in big spots.

"The bigger the game, the bigger she performed," Vitense said. "She was always that way."

On the rink as well, Vetter has faced many challenges throughout her career. Without a women's hockey team at Monona Grove, Vetter found herself playing on the Monona Grove men's team, and she was often pitted against some of the top talent in Wisconsin. Dave Kinsler, Vetter's coach, remembers a specific game against Verona during which Vetter faced future Badger and No. 7 pick in the NHL Draft Jack Skille. She didn't so much as quiver upon the sight of one of the state's top players.

"She stepped up and played with him," Kinsler said. "She always rose to the challenge when she could see that talent level coming down the ice against her."

Since coming to Wisconsin, Vetter's had even more opportunities to play in big games — Wisconsin has played in, and won, the past two Frozen Fours. Badger coach Mark Johnson knows just how much Vetter's play in the clutch has meant to the program’s success.

"She's handled the pressure well," Johnson said. "She's handled the NCAA tournament goals, and we've won two championships."

Last season Vetter once again found another top player, Harvard forward and winner of the Patty Kazmaier award for the nation's top player, Julie Chu, coming down the ice at her in an NCAA quarterfinal match at the Kohl Center. Like the game against Skille in high school paid off, Chu and the rest of the Crimson left the Kohl scoreless after four overtimes. Vetter would dominate countless others en route to UW’s second title in as many years.

Making the most of talent

There's no getting past Vetter's talent. She was named to the all-state team three times as a soccer player, earned team MVP three times on the hockey team, and was also good enough to play golf at the collegiate level.

Vitense remembers the exact moment he realized the athletic ability of Vetter. It was her freshman year and the high school was having a punt, pass and kick competition that pitted one girl from each of the four classes against each other (Vetter was the freshman representative).

"She punted the football 45 yards, kicked it 60 yards in the air, and threw it 50 yards," Vitense recalls. "Her total beat the total for the other three girls combined."

Vetter's kicking abilities translated well on the soccer field where her goal kicks and punts were game changing.

"She was an awfully talented kid from day one. I have yet to see another high school keeper approaching anywhere what she could do," Vitense said. "I still watch the U.S. National team, they cannot drive the ball the way Jessie Vetter could; she had that much talent."

Whether the yardages are completely accurate doesn’t matter. The point is clear: Vetter has always had talent. What's driven her success, though, has been her refusal to rely on talent alone, putting in long hours and hard work to make herself better.

"She was probably one of the hardest workers in practice," Vitense said. "She had all the God-given ability in the world, but she knew how to use it; she worked her tail off."

One of the challenges that came with playing for Verona's men's team was fitting in with her teammates. Once again, Vetter's dedication gave her a lift.

"She's an extremely hard worker," Kinsler said. "Because of her work ethic and her ability to compete at such a high level the guys totally respected what she brought to the table."

Playing so early for the men's team paid great dividends for Vetter as she got to face top talent that made the transition to the college game easier.

"Playing against the guys made be a better goalie," Vetter said. "It was better competition than playing (girls') club anywhere."

The hard work she's put in is noticeable in the improvement that Vetter's been able to make since coming to Wisconsin.

"She's a good athlete, and if you're a good athlete and you work hard, you’re going to have success," Johnson said. "That's what she's been able to do for us."

Kinsler, who frequently attends Badger home games has noticed it too.

"She would rely on athleticism," Kinsler said. "Now she's so smart that she doesn't waste any motion, she doesn't waste any energy."

Rewriting the record books

After just two seasons as a Badger, splitting time during both, Vetter is launching an assault on the record books.

In her two-plus seasons Vetter has complied a 35-2-3 record. Last season she finished first in the nation with a .83 goals-against average to become the first women's goalie in the country to finish with an average below 1.00. Furthermore, she's on pace to break just about every school record that a goalie could. Perhaps most impressive, though, is the shutout streak of 448 minutes that she posted last season, a collegiate record in either men's or women's hockey.

The streak began during a February win against Bemidji State and didn't end until the national championship game against Minnesota-Duluth.

"You just got to go in with the mindset that you will stop the puck," Vetter said of the mentality necessary to go on such a streak. "Its not necessarily being cocky — it's just being confident in your ability and believing you can help your team win any game."

Finding new challenges

Having won national titles in her first two seasons at Wisconsin, finding ways to stay motivated would seem to be a logical problem for Vetter. But the junior still finds a way to keep up the dedication that has gotten her to this point.

"Winning keeps you motivated because you want to stay on that path," Vetter said. "You know how it feels, and you don't want to give up."

After three titles at Monona Grove, Vetter didn't start to slack either.

"To be quite honest, she was awfully good about motivating us," Vitense said.
In addition to winning games at Monona Grove, Vetter helped shaped the future of the school's programs.

After Vetter left Monona Grove there was a boom in girl's hockey enrollment. Sometimes she still finds herself going back to her roots every once in a while to work with what she hopes will be future star goalies on the soccer team.

At UW, Vetter is helping to ensure the future of the Badgers is strong by working with sophomore goalie Allanah McCready.

"She's there all the time," McCready said. "She's someone to look up to, and she'll answer any question I have. She's helped me adjust to this level and helped me work on my game."
But with experience, talent, and hard work shaping Vetter's game — and two more years of eligibility left — the future certainly can wait.

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