Between Sept. 20 and Oct. 24, 2015, the Wisconsin women’s soccer team did not lose a game.
After tying once and then winning eight in a row, the Badgers found themselves with a record of 11-4-4. Losing only the final regular season game against Northwestern and the first game of the Big Ten Tournament against Ohio State ended the impressive run.
That streak propelled the team to its first Big Ten regular season championship since 1994, but it wasn’t enough for an NCAA tournament berth. The disappointment of last season is something the team vows won’t happen again, sophomore forward Steph Fabry said.
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“It was deafening silence in the room when we found out that we didn’t make the NCAA tournament,” Fabry said. “We all made ourselves promise that we wouldn’t feel that again. Everything we’ve been doing in preparation is for that moment to be changed this year.”
Part of that preparation comes with setting team goals. Head coach Paula Wilkins said she wants her team to focus its effort on games and practices. Wilkins stresses to her players the importance of getting results through the right amount of determination.
“We don’t want to lose a game because of a lack of effort,” Wilkins said. “I believe if we compete hard and we have our effort in the right spot in every game, then the results will come.”
With the 2016 season underway, the Badgers haven’t gotten off to the start they wanted. Playing without seven starters from the previous season seems to be a hindrance.
Despite the team’s lack of experience, Wilkins sees potential from returning players as well as the freshman class and praises the positive attitudes among all players.
“I see a lot of kids who are willing to learn,” Wilkins said. “They’re very disciplined, coachable and we have some talent. I think the strongest part for these guys right now is they defend together as a unit. These guys really want to do well and you can’t ask for more than that as a coach.”
Wisconsin will look to senior midfielder, Rose Lavelle, to be the root of their success. Earlier this month, TopDrawerSoccer.com named Lavelle the No. 1 player in the country for women’s college soccer in its women’s national top 100 rankings.
Last season, Lavelle led the team with 17 points, scored a team-high seven goals and recorded three assists. While she acknowledged the loss of seven starters as well, Lavelle said she thinks the team is supplied with a ton of depth.
“I think we’re deeper than we have been [in past seasons],” Lavelle said. “This year we have a lot of people that can rotate in at different spots. I think that’s definitely going to be a strength moving forward.”
As a senior midfielder, and named the No. 1 player in women’s college soccer, Lavelle knows she must serve as a leader to the rest of her teammates.
“[This season is] different,” Lavelle said. “It’s a new role and one I’m trying to embrace. It’s kind of weird, but I like it and I hope I can lead this team to accomplish our goals and have the best season yet.”
Lavelle played a large role for the Badgers’ offense in 2015, which possessed a +8 goal differential. During the team’s eight-game winning streak, Wisconsin outscored their opponents 15-2, something redshirt junior goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem hopes to continue into this season.
“One of our core values is always on offense,” Clem said. “We want teams to say, ‘we’re playing Wisconsin, we need to be ready for this game.'”
Though not a direct part of the offense, Clem knows what the team strives for on that side of the ball and the reputation they hope to make for themselves.
Clem enters her second straight year as the starting goalkeeper. As a redshirt sophomore in 2015, Clem recorded nine shutouts and 59 saves while earning a .756 save percentage.
With a year of experience under her belt, Clem feels more at ease in the net in comparison to the previous season.
“I feel much better [in net],” Clem said. “There’s always new stuff to learn and my job is to be consistent for my team and I think I feel a little more comfortable in my shoes this season.”
The disappointing end to the 2015 season certainly left a sour taste in the Badgers’ mouths. But the coaching staff and returning players feel this year’s team owns the tools to have success and build off of last season’s successes.
Saying they’re going to build off of the disappointment is the easy part for Wisconsin. Already six games into the season, it’s now up to the Badgers to show it on the field.