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In the midst of a tough stretch of the season, Wednesday’s match against Marquette may be just what the Wisconsin men’s soccer team needs. Coming off a difficult 2-1 defeat at the hands of second-ranked Northwestern, the Badgers will head to Milwaukee to take on the Golden Eagles before heading to Columbus to face another ranked team in Ohio State.
Marquette, with new coach Louis Bennett leading the team, is in the midst of a rebuilding year. In addition to a 2-5-4 record this season, the Golden Eagles have only scored three goals in their past seven games. Although Marquette has not fielded its strongest team this year, Wisconsin head coach Jeff Rohrman emphasized the need not to overlook the Golden Eagles, despite the approaching Ohio State matchup.
“You can’t get too up or take anybody any lighter in the course of a season, especially in our sport, because you’re going to get stomped,” Rohrman said. “We’re going to go after them in the same way we normally would.”
In Wisconsin’s last non-conference game against UW-Milwaukee, another in-state rival, the Badgers were able to jump out to a 4-0 lead. Wisconsin’s success against non-conference opponents is one of the main reasons the Badgers have not dropped below .500 this season. All five of Wisconsin’s wins have come against teams outside the Big Ten.
In addition to a new coach, the Golden Eagles are also inexperienced in terms of their players as well, featuring just one senior on the roster. Scott Lorenz, Wisconsin’s leading scorer this season, is hoping to capitalize on the youth of Marquette.
“Hopefully, they’ll feel the pressure a little bit, make some mistakes early, and we’ll be able to convert and get goals early and get in our rhythm,” Lorenz said.
Getting goals early is something that has been tough for the Badgers of late. In its last four matches, Wisconsin has been shut out in the first half three times.
“We have to make sure we play 90 minutes,” senior forward Victor Diaz said. “Last game we played for 45 minutes, and we did a great job in the second half while the first 45 minutes weren’t there.”
In order to defeat the Golden Eagles, the Badgers are going to have to create some opportunities against goalie Matt Pyzdrowski, who has a 0.91 goals against average this season, including five shutouts. But according to Rohrman, quality chances on Pyzdrowski may be hard to come by.
“It’s not just going to happen, we have to make it happen,” Rohrman said. “My expectation is that we’re going to play for 90 minutes with intensity.”
If the past is any indication, Wisconsin should be able to handle Marquette. Since 2003, the Badgers have not suffered a loss to the Golden Eagles.
“I think the guys should feel confident that we have done well against Marquette,” Rohrman said. However, in last year’s match, both teams battled a 1-1 tie, and with bragging rights and recruiting power on the line, Wednesday’s game carries some high expectations.
“We take all the in-state games as big rivalries; they’re more statement games than anything,” Lorenz said. “To claim the state is a good honor at the end of the season, to claim victory over hopefully all three of them — we’re looking forward to it.”