After Wisconsin plays Michigan State Thursday night, they will take on another team from across the lake, the University of Michigan in their first matchup since the 2016 Big Ten tournament, the Badgers will face off against the Wolverines Sunday.
Going into just their third in-conference game, Wisconsin has avoided defeat since their Aug. 20 loss to #2 Stanford. During this six-game win streak, the team has handily beaten opponents by a combined score of 12-1.
Wisconsin (7-1-0, 1-0-0 Big Ten) hopes to continue this season’s defensive success as they welcome a Big Ten foe in the University of Michigan (4-2-3, 1-1-0 Big Ten) to the McClimon Track/Soccer Complex.
Michigan has struggled as of late, winning just one of their past five contests. With an overall record of 4-2-3, the Wolverines will seek to capitalize on upsetting a ranked Big Ten opponent in #9 Wisconsin.
Though Michigan’s defense has been commanding, their offense has slowed following a hot start to the season. The Wolverines started off the season strong, shutting out their first two opponents by a combined score of 6-0, but they have not maintained this level of play and have scored only six goals in the seven games since.
Fortunately for Michigan, the formidable duo of goalkeepers Sarah Jackson and Hillary Beall have kept the team in close games throughout the season. A senior, Jackson boasts a .903 save percentage, which ranks second in the Big Ten, while the freshman Beall has also maintained a noteworthy .870 save percentage.
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On the same note, Wisconsin’s star goalkeeper and reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Caitlyn Clem has kept an impressive .778 save percentage against top-ranked teams like the Virginia Cavaliers while starting on each of the team’s six shutouts. A redshirt Junior from Okemos, Michigan, Clem continues to live up to her preseason All-Big Ten ranking as the centerpiece of a lockdown Wisconsin defense.
For Michigan to win this difficult matchup they will need to rediscover their early-season offensive dominance. Senior forward Taylor Timko will be Clem’s most challenging opponent as she leads the Wolverines with three goals this season.
Wisconsin will try to counter this attack with their own pair of strikers, Sophomore Dani Rhodes (5 goals) and Freshman Lauren Rice (2 goals). Rhodes is coming off an overtime penalty kick versus Minnesota and also leads the Big Ten in game-winning shots with four.
Sunday afternoon will likely set the tone for two defensive-minded teams as each tries to assert themselves in conference play. This will also be an opportunity for the Badgers to redeem their 2016 overtime loss to the Michigan women.
Kickoff starts at 1 p.m. at the McClimon Track/Soccer Complex with live coverage available on BTN PLUS.