Wisconsin (14-5-2, 6-3-2 Big Ten) came out victorious last Friday in Madison for a round one win against the Toledo Rockets (12-8-3, 6-3-2 Mid-American) in the NCAA tournament.
In one of their most impressive showings of the season, the Badgers took control against Toledo in about every facet of the game. Over a 10-minute stretch in the second half, Wisconsin outscored Toledo 5-0 to give them a comfortable victory against the Rockets.
Though the game was tied at 0-0 until the second period, Wisconsin was still dominating on the offensive end, outshooting Toledo 12 to two before the scoring outpour.
“I thought we could send [the ball] better, keep the ball higher up, and we were able to transition on that and create some corner kicks, and some that made it into the goal. We were talking about being more dynamic going into the final third and they did just that in opening up the game against Toledo,” Coach Paula Wilkins said of the halftime adjustments.
The most surprising part of the scoring display for the Badgers may have been that not one goal came from leading scorer Dani Rhodes, despite getting off four shots. Defender Grace Douglas led the team with her two scores, which were also the first two of her college career.
Douglas was one of three Badgers in this contest to score their first collegiate goals, the others being defender Jordan McNeese and midfielder Allie Winterfield. This is a stark change from the Badgers early season game-plan; Lauren Rice was the only one of Wisconsin’s top three scorers to make net.
However, Wilkins told UW Athletics she may opt for a less aggressive offensive strategy in the next contest against South Carolina.
“We’ll play South Carolina,” Wilkins said, “the No. 1 seed and one of the top teams in the country in the next round. They’ve been a very aggressive attack. I think we’ll have to go back to some of our defending days of being really good with getting numbers behind the ball and to play well.”
If Wisconsin does decide to go with a more defense-heavy approach, they certainly have the personnel to succeed. Caitlyn Clem is one of the hottest goalkeepers in college soccer, accumulating shutouts in six of her last eight contests.
The Badgers will have a week to prepare for their next challenge in Columbia, South Carolina as they take on the Gamecocks this Friday.