Seniors use last season’s defeat as motivation for playoff push in 2014

first_imgWith just one regular season game remaining, the Wisconsin women’s soccer team has five seniors who are looking to cap their final season with a bang.Last year, despite a solid 10-7-2 overall record and a 5-5-1 Big Ten record, Penn State knocked UW out of the tournament in the first round. This year, Wisconsin (15-2-1, 9-2-1 Big Ten) experienced an even more successful season, and is poised to fare much better in playoffs, taking the next step toward the NCAA tournament.However, the turnaround between seasons might never have happened if the seniors on this year’s team had not been disappointed in the end of their junior year.“Last year, we finished pretty abruptly,” senior goaltender Genevieve Richard of last season. “We were expecting to go to the NCAA [tournament] and we didn’t make it, and Big Ten [tournament] didn’t go well either. We had really high expectations in how far we should be going, so when things started breaking down, it left a bad taste in our mouths.”Last year’s team saw a start similar to this season’s. September was scattered with wins and ties versus big name opponents and only one loss in what was a close game against Vanderbilt, reaching the halfway point in the season with a record of 8-1-2.As the season progressed, however, the team started slipping slightly, losing many key matchups against conference rivals Minnesota, Penn State, and Illinois, among others, winning only two additional matches and losing six matches over the second month of play.Richard said she and her teammates started training for their current season last November – directly after getting eliminated from playoffs.“We had a team meeting about it,” Richard said. “I think the biggest thing was that we took the time to think through what we want to work for and what we want to represent.  That was a big part in changing our mentality; we weren’t just training for games. We wanted to take pride in our work.”Senior forward Cara Walls agrees with her Richard. Walls credits last season’s disappointing finish not to their play on the field, but how they were prepared.“I felt like there wasn’t the best energy or mindset about the program,” Walls said.After the conclusion of last season, Walls and Richard both said that many of the team’s seniors made a collective decision to turn things around, training hard in the off season, and holding each other to an expectation to put time in over the summer as well.The results of this decision were evident the minute the 2014 season started. The team experienced a winning streak right off the bat, shutting out five of its first six opponents. UW’s defense has made significant strides. Last year, opponents racked up 23 goals on Wisconsin throughout the season, whereas this year, the Badgers kept their number of goals against to an astounding seven — less than any other team in the conference — in addition to tallying the highest number of shutouts (13).Richard mentioned that these visible improvements have kept the team’s momentum going game after game, and have allowed the Badgers to keep their big end goal in sight:  Making it to the NCAA tournament.“I think we’ve proved to ourselves that we can make it [to the NCAA tournament],” Richard said. “It’s more than just believing in ourselves. We’ve performed and improved on a consistent basis. Now we know we can back it up.”Now, Wisconsin has just one regular season game left before the playoffs begin. Friday night the Badgers will go up against Illinois, and hopefully experience a similar 90 minutes to what they’ve been playing all season, before continuing on to the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Wednesday.In addition to all the improvements the team has made between last year and right now — with a renewed mentality, work ethic, and determination — the Badgers have a new outlook on post-season play. Whereas in 2013 Richard talked about an expectation heading into the first round, this year’s roster, while believing in its abilities, isn’t taking anything for granted.“In playoffs, it doesn’t matter how well you did during the season, it comes down to how you’re doing on the field,” Richard said. “All it takes is one game and you could be done.  But if we bring a collective effort like I know we can, we can go far.”last_img

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