The University of Wisconsin will attempt to hand Rutgers their first loss in a thrilling Big Ten matchup.
After a tremendous start, No. 16 Rutgers (8-0-2, 2-0-1 Big Ten) will welcome their highest ranked foe thus far in No. 12 Wisconsin (8-2-0, 2-1-0 Big Ten) to Yurkac Field in Piscataway, New Jersey.
The Badgers are looking for a strong road showing on this East Coast trip after suffering their first loss in more than a month versus Michigan last week. Before taking on the Scarlet Knights this Sunday, the Wisconsin women will go up against the Terps Friday in College Park, Maryland.
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Rutgers, however, appears to be the strongest challenger of their Big Ten opponents to date. While their strength of schedule is not as strong as the Badgers’, the Scarlet Knights have yet to lose, allowing only one goal thus far in the season.
Senior goalkeeper Casey Murphy leads this powerful defensive attack with a phenomenal .968 save percentage. A member of the U.S. Under 23 Women’s National Team, Murphy is undeniably one of the top goalkeepers and athletes in women’s collegiate soccer.
Possibly one of the only keepers on Murphy’s level is Wisconsin’s own Caitlyn Clem. Clem has kept the Badgers within striking distance during the last three games, all of which were low scoring overtime matchups.
While Clem has performed well all year, the Badgers’ weakness as of late has been scoring. Since Big Ten play began two weeks ago, Wisconsin has yet to net more than one goal in regulation.
Dani Rhodes has clearly been the focal point of the offense during this span, scoring or assisting in each of these last three games. More of the Badgers’ strikers, however, will need to be effective if they want to continue to compete against top programs like Rutgers.
Freshman forward Lauren Rice has shown flashes of excellent play thus far in her young career. As Wisconsin’s second leading scorer with three goals and two assists, Rice could become even more involved in the offense as she develops and acclimates to college play.
Despite the exciting potential of Rhodes and Rice, most expect this event to be a defensive battle rather than a shootout. In one of the more anticipated regular season matchups for the Badgers this year, this game should give fans some insight on how the top defenses of the conference stack up against each other.
Tune in to BTN Plus Sunday at 12 p.m. central for live coverage of the contest from New Jersey.