It has been a rocky Big Ten opening for the Badger women’s soccer team as they enter October with back-to-back home losses. Despite a dominating start to the season, the Badgers begin the second month of conference play with a 2-2-1 Big Ten record.
Things started strong in August, with the Badgers showing a dominating presence at the pitch. Opening the season in Kansas City, the team came home with a four-to-nothing win against the Kangaroos. Forward Lauren Rice started her season with back-to-back goals in the 12 and 17 minutes in the match. Adding to the score were Junior Claire Odmark and Freshman Maddie Ishaug. Goalkeeper Jordyn Bloomer began her hunt for more accolades this season with her first clean sheet of the season.
Similar stories were found in the Badgers’ 1-0 win over Kansas and 5-0 win over Eastern Illinois. Prior to conference play, the squad only held one loss against Notre Dame. A penalty kick goal for Jaskaniec was not enough to hold off the Fighting Irish who were able to score an early goal and capitalize on an overtime penalty kick to take the win.
The Badgers pulled off a nail-biting win over the Providence Friars right before beginning conference play. The match was neck-and-neck through normal time, with both squads responding to each other’s offensive efforts leading to a 2-2 score at 90 minutes. A last-minute goal by Odmark solidified the overtime win for Wisconsin.
The Big Ten season opened in St Paul, where Wisconsin was able to come home with a 2-1 win. The result makes 10 straight wins over the Golden Gophers for the Badgers. An early goal by Minnesota was quickly canceled out by an effort by Jaskaniec. The second half upped the action, with the Badgers outperforming the Gophers on shots — converting one for a goal by Junior Jenna Kiraly.
Next up, the Badgers began a two-game trip to Michigan, beginning with a match against Michigan State. The first 45 minutes were dominated by the Wisconsin offense. Odmark was able to score the lone goal for the match in the 36th minute of the match. The second half saw the Spartans take back possession, out-shooting the Badgers and forcing Bloomer to make seven saves during the match.
The team made their next stop in Ann Arbor to face off against the Michigan Wolverines. This is where the trouble began to mount for the Badgers. Jaskaniec took her sole shot on goal of the match in just the first few seconds of play. The effort was blocked by Wolverine goalkeeper Hillary Beall. Forward Cammie Murtha dominated the shots taken for the Badgers, but the most promising effort landed just off target, hitting the woodwork. Wisconsin received three straight corner kicks but was unable to convert a single one to serious action against Michigan. The team returned home with one point but plenty to think about going into the next few matches.
Back at McClimon, Wisconsin welcomed Penn State to Madison for what would be a disappointing 2-1 loss. Both teams matched up fairly well in the first half, leading to a halftime score of 1-1. The second half saw the Badgers fail to find the back of the net, while the Nittany Lions were able to make a last-minute addition to their score within the 81 minute mark. Similar to the match against Michigan, the Badgers were given six corner kick opportunities during regulation, yet were unable to convert any of the set pieces for points.
Sunday’s “Pack The Mac” doubleheader with the men’s team saw the Badger women face a tough Purdue squad. Purdue opened the scoring in minute 12 with a header from Sarah Griffith. Griffith would give the Boilermakers their second goal later during minute 60. The Badgers outshot Purdue during the first half but were unable to find the back of the net even once in 45 minutes. The lone Wisconsin goal would be found in a quick retaliation in minute 61 by Senior Natalie Viggiano. Purdue left for West Lafayette with an important three points in yet another 2-1 loss for Wisconsin.
With a two-loss streak at home, there is plenty for Badger head coach Paula Wilkins to think about. It is easy to pin the losses on holes in the defensive backline, allowing opponents to make important goals. But at the same time, there is much to say on the other side of the pitch, with the forwards leaving set piece opportunities on the table, unable to convert them to goals. Even with the recent losses, the team still sits with a dominating record for the full season. With a five-day break before the next match, the Badgers have plenty of time to rest up and get back into their winning mindset before next weekend, where they face Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.