Tough west coast challenge for UW

first_imgAfter wrapping up two victories at home last week, the Wisconsin women’s soccer team is packing up for the Stanford Tournament, in what is sure to be one of its toughest tests of the season.The Badgers meet No. 12 Santa Clara (5-2) and No. 3 Stanford (7-0) this Friday and Sunday.The tournament will offer quite a road challenge for the young Badgers. Seven of the team’s top 10 players in playing time (excluding goalkeeper) have been underclassmen, including three freshmen.“I think that a lot of these young players have a lot of energy and they want to win,” senior captain Krista Liskevych said. “I think it is our responsibility as upperclassmen to show them the ropes and use that energy constructively.”“I think both Santa Clara and Stanford provide us with a great opportunity to play the best teams in the country,” head coach Paula Wilkins added. “I think this is an opportunity to figure out what we are good at and what we need to improve at, and I think that is the biggest test going into the Big Ten.”In preparation for the tournament, the Badgers have been focusing on improving the offense’s ability to put the ball in the back of the net in scoring opportunities.“We’ve been doing a lot more finishing drills,” Wilkins said, “trying to keep them focused more on getting the ball on net, keeping the ball alive and being competitive about that area.”The Badgers (4-2-1) have not been short on opportunities to score this season, but the results have been meager thus far. Through the last two games, Wisconsin has outshot its opponents 28-12 — including a shots-on-goal ratio of 16-4, which yielded three goals, and set an NCAA record for most corner kick attempts in a game with 23 in a 1-0 victory over UW-Green Bay.“The one thing is that we’re creating those opportunities, and I think that as long as you’re continuing to create the opportunities, that’s an important part of the whole entire deal,” Wilkins said. “I think as we mature as a team, we’re going to get better at the front half of the field.”Wisconsin did show signs of that maturity late in Sunday night’s game, receiving a boost of offensive energy from freshman midfielder Alev Kelter after heading in two goals in the last 15 minutes of play to eclipse DePaul 2-1. Both goals were results of corner kicks from sophomore defender Meghan Flannery.But Wilkins warns that it should be everyone who answers the call to improving the team’s offense.“It should be something special inside the box,” she said.Kelter answered the call confidently.“I think a lot of people will get goals this week,” she said.The team’s strength lies firmly on the defensive side of the ball, where the results have been concrete, posting four shutouts in seven games.“The defense is awesome,” Kelter said. “I think we have a solid back four. I feel like we all play great, solid defense.”Confidence is soaring for defense.“I’m more than confident. From the communication that we have back there and the confidence that we have in each other, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t hold them scoreless, definitely, this weekend,” said Michele Dalton, junior goalkeeper. “I think we really work well together, and I think that shows in all the games we’ve played thus far.”While she expects the dynamic offenses of Santa Clara and Stanford to put her defense under a lot of pressure, Wilkins also expects the unit to remain consistent.“It’s all I ask of them, to be consistent and be as competitive as they can,” she said.Dalton displays a clear understanding of what that consistency calls for.“Shutouts. Always. That’s the No. 1 priority for us. The goal for us is to maintain good communication and not let anything through.”last_img

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