In Wisconsin sports’ second major statement win of the weekend, the men’s soccer team pulled off a major upset Sunday by taking down No. 6 Indiana 2-0 at the McClimon Complex.
Football comparisons abounded after Sunday’s game, as the Badgers (5-3-2) were able to hand the defending Big Ten champion Hoosiers their first loss of the season. Putting together one of their most complete performance of the year against Indiana (6-1-2), Wisconsin made sure the 1,194 fans who attended the Pac the Mac event enjoyed a stellar home victory.
“We had the football team yesterday beat Nebraska, who’s the eighth-[ranked], and we just beat the [sixth] team in the nation, so we’re trying to make a name for ourselves at this school, as well,” sophomore defender Paul Yonga said. “It’s good to beat a top program like Indiana.”
After struggling to mount a serious offensive attack for much of the first period, the Badgers returned in the second half with a new aggressiveness, as midfielder Tomislav Zadro booted a laser toward the right post off a pass by Nick Janus to put UW up 1-0. Outshot 6-2 in the first half by a high-scoring Hoosiers attack, Wisconsin picked up tremendous momentum as the second half unfolded and took full advantage of their scoring opportunities.
Despite several close calls after the Badgers’ first goal, including a near goal by Indiana standout midfielder Alec Purdie on a fast break, UW head coach John Trask’s squad looked confident and comfortable with the lead throughout the second half. Trask himself is an Indiana graduate and former Hoosiers graduate assistant.
The most serious threat to UW’s lead came in the 60th minute when UW goaltender Max Jentsch got his hands around a penalty kick by Hoosiers midfielder Harrison Petts. Recording several impressive saves and stopping a team that averages over two goals a game from scoring, Jentsch was clearly a key to picking up the conference-opening victory over Indiana.
“The command [Jentsch] has for the box – he’s always been good on that – the amount of balls that he exited and caught, it helps,” Trask said. “If you fall back on top of your goalkeeper because he’s not confident, bad things happen. If he can come out and grab some of those [balls], that was huge. It gave [the defenders] that sense of security.”
With Wisconsin in top shape against the team that sat at the top of the Big Ten coming into the game, the Badgers seemed thrilled to be up by a goal but only added to their lead late in the second period. With just over 10 minutes to play, Janus, a sophomore midfielder/forward, recorded his second goal of the year off a pass from standout freshman AJ Cochran.
Solidifying arguably the biggest win of the year for the Badgers, Janus’ goal showed the team’s efficiency in the matchup, as they were able to put two of their six total shots in the back of the net.
Although the Hoosiers came out of the gate aggressive and looking like a top 10 team – forcing five saves from Jentsch in the first period – the UW defense was ultimately able to contain the Hoosiers’ prolific offense. Indiana dominated possession early in the game and fired off six shots and five corner kicks in the first period. However, the Badgers’ defense was able to hold strong and refused to give up an easy goal to Indiana.
“We definitely had to focus on our team defending,” Yonga said. “We knew Indiana is a very good individual team, so we had to support each other on the defense. One guy step to the ball, the other guy cover. I mean, without our supporting each other, we definitely wouldn’t have been able to slow their top runners – they have some of the best players in the nation.”
While there was no shortage of scoring opportunities for Indiana in the first half, forcing a shutout against one to the top teams in the conference gave the UW defense a renewed sense of confidence. The Hoosiers refused to give up, forcing several great saves by Jentsch in the final 10 minutes of the contest.
Trask said his team emulated the strongest aspects of Indiana’s game.
“I’m an IU guy … and the philosophies are very similar,” Trask said. “You could’ve taken the jerseys and switched them out, I think, in many ways. I think it’s a bit like the Nebraska-Wisconsin game last night on the football field. Wisconsin beat Nebraska at everything that Nebraska always was, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
As the Badgers hope to play the rest of the Big Ten season in as impressive form as they were Sunday, coaches and teammates alike seem more confident than ever after defeating a heavily favored Indiana squad.
“I think throughout the season, we’ve progressively gotten more comfortable with each other and better and better,” Janus said. “I think that today proved it, that we’re a contender.”