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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Soccer looks to improve at USD

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Scott Lorenz will look to improve the Badgers record against top teams in California this weekend.[/media-credit]

Four games into the 2009 season, head coach Todd Yeagley and the men’s soccer team are already pleased with this year’s changes.

After coming away with a respectable 2-1 preseason loss to No. 1 Akron, the squad is looking forward to its upcoming pair of tournaments where it will face West Coast giants No. 6 UC-Santa Barbara and University of San Diego.

“When we can put ourselves in those situations early in the year,” senior goalkeeper Alex Horwath said, “it helps replicate the situations we are going to see further down the road. It’s really a learning experience.”

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“It sets the bar at where we need to be and shows what kind of intensity we need to bring to games, and we’re trying to carry that out through the season,” senior striker Scott Lorenz added.

This weekend the team makes its longest trip of the season to compete in the San Diego State Tournament where they will face the San Diego Toreros, a team out to a solid 2-0 start and holding the sixth position in the regional rankings.

Two days later, the men in cardinal and white will go head-to-head with a struggling San Diego State Aztecs squad that lost its first two games of the season.

“Playing teams from different regions with different styles will help us learn and grow as a team,” Yeagley said.

The squad is looking forward to the upcoming tournament as they prepare for their Big Ten schedule starting later this month.

“I think they’re going to be very technical teams, as most West Coast teams are,” Lorenz said. “There’ll be a lot more space on the field. We’ll be able to compete.”

The last time the Toreros and the Badgers met was in 1996 when the teams battled out to a scoreless draw. The match against the Aztecs will be the first time the two teams meet on the pitch.

Yeagley will have two tournaments to decide who will fill the four gaps left by graduating seniors in the Big Ten opener when the Badgers host the Indiana Hoosiers.

“We’ve lost some key players from last year,” Yeagley said. “And we have some returning players that are playing new positions.”

While some of last year’s substitutes have stepped up, Yeagley has found a gem in freshman Ata Ozbay.

“He has come in and shown that he can help us in the attacking part of the field,” Yeagley said.

This shining new addition may prove to be the catalyst that propels the squad to the NCAA Tournament.

“The team seems to finally be coming together,” Lorenz said. “We found out that we could score.”

Besides boasting a solid attack, Yeagley has implemented a new defensive system.

“It starts from the attack,” Horwath said. “It’s been a lot easier this year on the [defensive] backs and me. The confidence is definitely up. We know if we get one goal, we should be safe.”

The defensive effort of the Badgers has not gone unnoticed. Last week Horwath was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, following a pair of shutout appearances in the Middleton Sports & Fitness Invitational.

“You can’t focus on personal goals. When you start focusing on personal goals, you lose track of what’s important,” the modest keeper remarked. “If the team wins games, personal accolades will come. But the most important thing is winning games.”

In addition to proving their potential on the scoreboard, the team also hopes to please their new coaching staff this season.

“Success breeds success,” Lorenz said. “He knows how to win. He knew how to win as a player and I think that transfers over as a coach. You want to be like a sponge and absorb all he has.”

Last year the squad finished with a respectable 9-7-3 record, yet still finished a mere seventh in the conference and exited the Big Ten Tournament in the first round. According to the team, they have left last season behind.

“The results of last year are part of the past,” Yeagley said. “We’ve been focusing on the present and getting ready for the next opponent.”

After a short spring season and fall training, the team seems to have bought into Yeagley’s winning philosophy and is ready to show what they have to offer. They are off to the best defensive start in seven years and are looking to improve over the weekend.

“The coach has come in and changed the mentality of the program,” said the weekend’s hero Horwath. “Everybody’s more professional in their attitude on and off the field. The work ethic on the field … I mean, I’ve never seen it before.”

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