After ending last season on such a high note, the University of Wisconsin’s men’s soccer team is coming into this season with the utmost confidence.

The team ended the 2017 season 12-5-5, the best record they have had in years. Winning the Big Ten Tournament against Indiana in a penalty kick showdown near the end of the season left the players satisfied as they move forward to train this spring.

Reaching the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament was another big accomplishment for the men’s team. Beating a team like No. 12 Notre Dame in the second round was extremely exciting for the Badgers as they hadn’t even participated in the tournament since 2013.

The team was so sought after last season that four of our key members were drafted into Major League Soccer (MLS). Two players, Chris Mueller and Mark Segbers, were chosen in the Top 10 of the MLS draft, a huge deal for Wisconsin athletics. While this looks positive for the school and athletic department, it leaves a ton of weight on the shoulders of the returning players.

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Head coach John Trask, who was inducted into the Wisconsin Soccer Hall of Fame last week, gave us the inside scoop on how the players have been preparing for the upcoming season.

“The guys have been working very hard this spring, both with our strength and conditioning staff and our soccer staff.  We just finished the first of five spring contests with a good hard fought result (3-3) against UWGB who won the Horizon League regular season,” he said. “We improved during the match and many younger players gained valuable experience  —  which is the key during the spring.”

The games played during the spring are just a sneak peak of the action we will get this fall.

Because the team played so well last year, the players are hoping to prove themselves again this season. They want to come back from the off-season raring to go, with some new fresh faces added to the mix.

The first few games will be non-conference matches, leading up to the first Big Ten game against Indiana. This game is crucial after winning against the Hoosiers last season down to the wire, as well as for the rest of the Big Ten season.

There are some players Trask said we should keep our eyes on.

“While losing some exceptional talent, some returning guys, like senior captain Isaac Schlenker, Robin Olofsson Elan Koenig will be counted on to lead the team this coming fall,” he said. “The partnership of Mitch Guitar and Noah Leibold gives us dominant center midfield and … quite a bit of experience in the back half.”

It seems as though the coaching staff is ready to tackle the season with both seniors and newbies on the field. With the leadership of the older players and the enthusiasm of the younger ones, the team is ready to take the NCAA by storm.

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While some might worry that this is going to be a rebuilding season for the Badgers, Coach Trask is sure the 2017 season left them wanting more. The 2018 season is a season of “reloading” rather than rebuilding for Wisconsin, and is the perfect opportunity to show the rest of the country what they’ve got.

The next spring game to catch will be versus University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee April 8 at the McClimon Complex. The Milwaukee Panthers ended last season 10-5-4, so the Badgers hope to defeat them in their next home match-up.

After a remarkable 2017 season, the Badgers are back and stronger than ever. They are ready to take on their next four exhibition games this spring, after having time to rest and prepare. With months of off-season training, the players are determined to make this year as memorable as last.