Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badgers begin conference slate with Penn State

With seven nonconference games under its belt, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team travels to University Park, Penn. to play Penn State this Sunday for the start of its Big Ten season and its quest for respect.

The Badgers brought an undefeated 4-0-1 record to Chicago last weekend for the IUC Soccer Classic, but after defeating IPFW 5-1 on Friday night, they suffered their first loss of the season against Gonzaga in a 2-0 game Sunday.

“We didn’t take the loss too hard because Gonzaga is a good team, so losing to them wasn’t too detrimental,” senior co-captain Paul Yonga said. “It definitely gave us a reality check that there are bigger, better and stronger teams out there than what we’ve been playing against. Playing against an out-of-conference team like Gonzaga definitely helped us to prepare for Penn State.”


The rest of the team is also pointing to the Gonzaga match as a good thing because they learned more about themselves from that loss than they would have in a victory over a weaker team.

“I thought we outplayed Gonzaga for a better part of the game,” senior co-captain Blake Succa said. “We need to work on a few final pieces, like a final pass in the open field, to get guys scoring chances. I feel like in the last 15 to 20 minutes of the Gonzaga game, we let up a little bit, so we can learn from that and take it to Penn State and aim to get a different result.”

Only seven teams are in the Big Ten for men’s soccer (Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin) so the season is short — each team plays its conference foes once — placing an added level of importance on each matchup.

Added importance makes for a more competitive and altogether different style of play than nonconference games.

“Big Ten games definitely get more physical and the intensity definitely gets ramped up,” Yonga said. “With only six [games], every game is more important because everyone is looking to win the Big Ten championship. That makes it a little more intense.”

As Succa put it, that type of pressure in conference games could get the best of teams, just as it did of the Badgers in 2012 when the team finished sixth with a 1-3-2 conference record.

This season, with 13 seniors on the roster, the Badgers feel as if they are in a position to do something truly special because of the experience and chemistry they have built over the past three seasons.

“The biggest thing is that we have been through this before and we’ve been through this together,” Succa said. “We have all been on the team long enough to know each other’s traits and to trust one another — whether it be the starters or the guys coming in off the bench.”

Having an experienced squad full of upperclassmen could pay huge dividends for the Badgers during the heart of the Big Ten season. Everything seems routine when players have been through a Big Ten season before. As Badgers’ head coach John Trask said, “You count on those guys because they know what it’s like.”

Penn State is an intriguing matchup for the Badgers. The defending Big Ten regular season champion Nittany Lions come into Big Ten play with a 5-2-1 record, but, aside from their 2-1 victory Wednesday night over West Virginia, they have yet to score more than one goal in any contest this season.

“That’s Big Ten soccer,” Trask said of Penn State’s offensive record. “People believe in defense in this part of the country and not just in soccer. You can make the analogy with Big Ten basketball and football … That’s just the type of hardworking, what I called ‘region two’ Midwestern kids that we have — they’re tough and don’t allow you to just walk on by and score a goal.”

Freshman striker Mark Wadid appears to be the only source the Nittany Lions get their offense from so far this season. Through the first seven games, Wadid was responsible for three of the team’s six goals and due to the lack of scoring going on in central Pennsylvania, and all three of them were game winners. This week, Wadid was named Big Ten Co-offensive Player of the Week along with Northwestern’s Chris Ritter.

The offensive struggles come as a bit of a surprise as Penn State was second in the Big Ten last year, scoring 1.41 goals per game (Indiana, 1.71).

It’s as if the script has been flipped from last season as the Badgers, last in the Big Ten in 2012 in goals per game with 1.11, find themselves sitting atop the conference in that category with 2.29 goals per game. Penn State is sixth with just 1.00 goals per game.

Prior to the season, the Big Ten coaches projected that Penn State would finish fifth and Wisconsin sixth in the conference, so both teams will remain motivated from the start to prove the outside voices wrong.

“I know I feel it personally because we feel like our team has not been given the proper consideration,” Trask said. “In our minds, when we had [Tomislav] Zadro and our full compliment of players we finished tied for second in the conference (2011).”

From a players’ perspective, the disrespect from the preseason coaches’ poll is nothing new.

“Pretty much every year that I’ve been here, we have been projected by the coaches to finish either sixth or seventh,” Succa said. “It definitely has gotten us a little upset, but I kind of like it.”

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