In what can only be described as a very frustrating 2-1 overtime loss to the Northern Illinois Huskies, the men’s soccer team can only move forward from here.
Besides pushing the game into overtime after falling 1-0 a few minutes into the second half, there seemed to be very few bright spots for the Badgers last night at the McClimon Soccer Complex. One was goaltender Max Jentsch, but overall the Badgers need to improve in one specific area to earn wins. They need to get more physical. That was evident in Wednesday’s heartbreaking loss.
Freshmen on the field
Freshman goalkeeper Max Jentsch started his first game at home against the Huskies, his second on the season, and while it didn’t end exactly how he wanted head coach John Trask was impressed with his play.
“He’s been a bright spot,” Trask said. “His two performances have been very good.”
Jentsch wasn’t the only freshman starting. Five freshmen were in the starting line-up, and all but one of them played the full 94 minutes of the game.
All season the Badgers have found themselves with a lot of freshmen starting, but this is one of the first games where Trask has felt they played like freshmen.
“Tonight they looked like freshmen,” Trask said. “I don’t think there was any question of the result. I told their coaches so much, and we’re not good enough. We’re not hard enough, we’re not big enough, we’re not mean enough, we’re not tough enough. We’re missing every single element of being a good college soccer team at this point. The bottom line is these guys need to get bigger and stronger; the young guys need to continue to improve.”
Redshirt sophomore defenseman Danny Ahlering feels like the freshmen can no longer be looked at as such a young squad, considering Wisconsin has already played ten games at the college level.
“For the most part a lot of them have been playing all season – this is Jentsch’s second start – a lot of them are used to it,” Ahlering said. “We’re confident in front of him. We’re confident with everyone on the field, all the freshmen. They’ve all been playing so much I don’t really look at them as freshmen any more.”
Wisconsin knew the game was going to be a physical matchup, but Trask still wanted to try different combinations with his team and used a lot of guys off the bench throughout the game, especially in the first half.
In the first half alone Trask subbed in four players off his bench to see what could happen with various lineups.
“It’s a non-conference game,” Trask said. “We were looking to try a couple different things. We had some changes with personnel, like Cale Cooper going up top. We just wanted to see what it looked like. Pitts played in the midfield some, he’s been playing up top for us, just looking at what we’ve got really at this point.
“Some of our guys did alright off the bench, some of them not so good.”
Too many fouls
For an indication of how physical and frustrating the game was, look no further than the amount of fouls that occurred between the two teams.
With a total of 40 fouls, 20 for each team, Wisconsin felt they were making some dumb mistakes but couldn’t seem to get themselves out of foul trouble, especially one that led to the winning goal.
“NIU’s always physical,” Ahlering said. “They’re big players; you have to be ready for that. We just made some stupid fouls. You always have to be ready to play them because they’re always fouling.”
“When we give up dumb fouls, it’s frustrating, like how they scored on that last goal,” Jentsch added.
As the fouls kept piling on, scoring opportunities seemed to keep slipping away from the Badgers.
It was all too clear how frustrated the team was starting to become through the second half, especially after NIU took the lead, but the frustration only seemed to produce more fouls until UW finally knocked in a goal.
“We fouled them 20 times,” Trask said. “You just can’t do that. We gave them too many opportunities. I don’t think we were bad tonight, but we weren’t good enough to win either.”