After finishing sixth in the Big Ten, the Wisconsin women’s soccer team will head to Bloomington, Ind., where they will take on Michigan in the first round of the conference tournament.
For the second season in a row, Wisconsin (12-6-1, 5-5-1 Big Ten) will play for the Big Ten title, earning the No. 6 seed in the eight-team bracket.
Last year, UW made an early exit, losing in the first round to Minnesota 2-0.
Redshirt junior forward Paige Adams said the team is excited to begin the postseason.
“We are really pumped for the game tomorrow,” Adams said. “It is kind of do-or-die for us, so we’re really excited and I think we are going to do well.”
UW has seemingly hit a late-season stride, winning five games in a row before falling to Iowa 2-1 in the last game of the regular season Saturday in Iowa City.
During that six-game stretch, the Badgers have scored 13 goals and allowed only seven.
Adams said she believes the team has some momentum from its winning streak but learned from the loss to the Hawkeyes.
“The last game was kind of a wake-up call for us,” Adams said. “It was a learning experience for us and the wins that we had before. I think we are going to carry that through into the tournament.”
Wisconsin will take on No. 3 seed Michigan (13-4-2, 7-2-2) Wednesday in the first round of the tournament.
The Badgers hope to avenge a 3-0 loss suffered at the hands of the Wolverines earlier this season at the McClimon Complex.
Michigan dominated Wisconsin in the previous matchup, holding the Badgers to only four shots on goal and tallying 11 shots as a team.
Although the Wolverines were dominant in their September match with the Badgers, Michigan has faltered as of late, currently riding a three-game winless streak. Most recently, Michigan fell in its regular season finale with Illinois, a team Wisconsin defeated 2-1 just three weeks ago.
Senior forward Monica Lam-Feist said the team learned from its earlier game with Michigan and has made some adjustments.
“We definitely looked at that game and what we need to do differently,” Lam-Feist said. “We changed some things, so going forward we feel comfortable with what we are going to do.”
UM’s biggest threat to UW will be junior forward Nkem Ezurike, who has 11 goals and one assist on the season, with two of those goals coming against Wisconsin in September.
Freshman midfielder McKenna Meuer said the defensive unit needs to put pressure on the Michigan attack to avoid giving up three goals again.
“Our motto all year has been ‘Make them go around us, not through us,'” Meuer said. “So, we want them to play down the outsides and not down the middle, as well as making them play in front of us and then make the tackles that we need to make to get the ball back.”
UW’s offense has been playing well as of late, scoring seven times in its last three games.
After being shut out by the Wolverines in the regular season, Adams said the key to the offensive success Wednesday is possession.
“What we are really going to try to do is just, once we win the ball, counter and keep the ball,” Adams said. “I think that is something we sometimes struggle with is keeping [the ball] after we win it. So, if we can just connect that first pass and then get forward, I think we are going to be a lot more successful.”
It is now win-or-go-home for the Badgers, and with the outcome of Wednesday’s game having a large influence on Wisconsin’s NCAA Tournament chances, it is safe to say this is the biggest game of the year for UW.
Lam-Fiest said she knows this is a critical game for Wisconsin, and the team will not be holding back going into Wednesday’s match.
“We know that it is do-or-die,” Lam-Feist said. “We don’t want to be safe and not put it all out there. So we are really excited to go out there and play our game and give everything we have.”