Badgers hope for big weekend against OSU, PSU

first_imgAfter grinding out a series of 1-0 wins on the road against Big Ten rivals Indiana and Purdue last Friday and Sunday, the No. 12 Wisconsin women’s soccer team (10-1-0, 4-1-0 Big Ten) looks to stake their claim as conference favorites with a pair of home games this weekend against Ohio State and No. 7 Penn State.So far in Big Ten play, the Badgers have been nearly flawless. Besides one last-minute loss on the road against Michigan, Wisconsin has been merely untouchable at home and on the road, with a tally of nine goals scored to just two scored against them. The Badgers’ past three opponents have fallen victim to shutout losses, as the experienced back line of redshirt senior Alexandra Heller and junior Briana Stelzer, combined with redshirt senior goalkeeper Genevieve Richard, continue to consistently frustrate premiere Big Ten strikers.Ohio State brings an interesting scenario coming into this Friday’s matchup, starting at 7 p.m. at the McClimon Complex. While their overall record (5-6-0, 2-3-0 Big Ten) is far from impressive, the Buckeyes are coming off of a commanding 3-1 win over Northwestern Sunday. In addition, the return of some key pieces for Ohio State has Wisconsin head coach Paula Wilkins seeing the Buckeyes as a legitimate threat.“One of the things I know about Ohio State is they have the return of Nichelle Prince, who hasn’t played other than this past weekend,” Wilkins said. “So when you have a player who’s a good goal scorer and can create some danger in the front half I think every team will build in confidence, and I think you saw that against Northwestern. I think it just kind of raises your confidence and it’s the same with us having Cara [Walls] come back. I think it’s going to be a similar effect.”Wisconsin senior forward Cara Walls, who had been out with injury since the start of Big Ten play, finally got back on the field last Sunday against Purdue, recording one shot in 73 minutes of play. Walls, who has scored a staggering seven goals in seven games this season, appears to have returned just in time to counter a revamped Buckeye attack.Similarly, Ohio State’s star sophomore striker Nichelle Prince made her debut last Sunday after missing the entire season up to that point. Prince scored a team-leading 13 goals for the Buckeyes last season and received second-team all conference honors.Perhaps the biggest test of the season is looming for the Badgers as they await the arrival of Penn State (10-1-0, 5-0-0 Big Ten) at noon on Sunday. With a combined nine wins and just one loss between the two teams in conference play, there’s little question to the heavy implications of this matchup.Looking to dethrone the Nittany Lions atop the Big Ten standings, redshirt senior Kodee Williams said the return of her offensive counterpart, Walls, will pay huge dividends against the apparent brick wall that is Penn State’s back line. The Nittany Lions enter the weekend allowing only 0.82 goals per game.Although the second game of any given weekend is usually more physically demanding than the first, Williams believes both teams are “in the same boat” since Penn State will be in action Friday as well, at Minnesota. Williams did, however, emphasize the need for every player to be ready if their number is called off the bench.“We just have to make sure that we’re treating our bodies right and getting prepared because we’ll be putting in a lot of minutes. We’ll probably go pretty deep in our bench,” Williams said. “So we really need everyone this weekend especially because it’s pretty much a fact that it will be a tougher game on Sunday.”If there’s one concept Wilkins has emphasized above the rest, it’s that the Big Ten is won or lost Sundays.As an eighth year coach, Wilkins is more than familiar with the increasingly difficult physical demands of the season as the games add on. The important part is keeping everything in perspective.“Our fitness standard coming into the season was good,” Wilkins said. “I think sometimes it’s hard to manage because of how many games that we have in a row. I think the bigger part here is to manage their health, so that’s what we’re trying to do right now and making sure they’re fresh for the games.”last_img

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