After going winless for 13 games, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team finally earned a victory Wednesday by shutting out UW-Milwaukee 2-0 at home in a tremendous defensive effort.
Head coach John Trask noted the positive outcome that came from moving defender Paul Yonga to the defensive midfielder position and sending senior captain Aaron Nichols to the defense to play right back, where he showed great leadership and athleticism.
However, it was a total team effort from Yonga, to the defensive line, to freshman goalkeeper Max Jentsch, that solidified the victory despite playing without defender Blake Succa, who has led the team in minutes this season.
“When we get into the Big Ten, they’re going to have a tougher challenge because there’s better attacking players, but tonight was a good solid defensive performance,” Trask said. “I’m not big into 4-3 games; this was my type of soccer tonight.”
While Trask would have liked to see the team pursue a third goal, he was proud of his young team’s maturity to maintain the lead and continue improving each game.
“We keep pecking away at it,” Trask said. “We’re not going crazy on these guys; we know that it’s just one thing after another. It was a good night for the guys. I feel happy for them. They needed it. They needed it so much.”
Senior forward Bryan Gerster highlighted an improvement in the team’s pride in terms of one-on-one defending Wednesday night, which had cost the team wins in last week’s games. The team was finally able to clean up its bad mistakes in the backfield that resulted in what Gerster called lucky goals for opponents.
“We finally put it together and came out with a shut out,” Gerster, who recorded assists on both Badger goals in the game, said.
The Badgers were a lot more aggressive and mentally prepared to play than Milwaukee, despite the strong winds throughout the game Gerster added.
Nichols has been playing all over the field on the season, but it seems like he has finally found his niche in providing much needed support for UW’s young defensive unit. Trask’s only knock against the captain is he can’t play in more places on the field at a time.
“Nichols helped us secure the backfield with that athleticism and that senior leadership back there,” Trask said. “I’ve said this to Aaron a few times, I wish I had three of him. I wish I had him at right at right back, right midfield and one of the two forward spots. Aaron is a tremendous competitor and we just seem to be a little more solid back there, and hopefully that can continue against Ohio State this weekend.”
The game was an aggressive battle on defense, featuring 25 bookings and one yellow card, which is to be expected when facing an in-state rival.
“Madison versus Milwaukee, it’s a Wisconsin battle, so it’s always a big game,” defender Kyle McCrudden said. “For both teams, it’s a big build up. I think we came out hard, I think they did too, but I just think we knew it was going to be a physical battle, and if we wanted to win and stay in it, we would have to out-do them and have more energy than them, and I think we came out well and did that.”
McCrudden and the rest of the Wisconsin team could all exhale a much deserved sigh of relief after finally accomplishing the win the team has been hoping and waiting for.
“It feels real good when you have a 13-game non-winning streak,” McCrudden said. “I thought we played well in the first half, which was really clutch to get two early goals. Janus and Joey both; they were two good goals and good buildups. It was also nice to hold on and get the second shutout of the year, so it’s nice to get good offense and good defense at the same time.”