Women’s soccer closes out home slate against new foes

first_imgIn its final weekend of home games, the Wisconsin women’s soccer team prepares to host conference opponents Rutgers and Maryland, in what will no doubt prove to be two games that could alter where the teams stand in the conference when the Big Ten tournament starts in a couple weeks.Wisconsin (13-2-1, 7-2-1 Big Ten) will play Rutgers (11-2-1, 7-2-1 Big Ten) Friday night, a team that has worked its way up to third place in the Big Ten standings, just behind the Badgers. The Scarlet Knights have been working extremely well together this year, achieving success as a unit rather than relying on individual players, which makes preparing for them difficult, according to UW head coach Paula Wilkins.“[Rutgers] doesn’t really have one weak area to exploit. Collectively, they are a very good team,” Wilkins said.But one potential weakness Wisconsin can exploit is Rutgers’ trouble finishing around the net. The Scarlet Knights have tallied 24 goals in total this season, in contrast to Wisconsin’s 34, along with averaging fewer overall shots than most top competitors in the league. Even the Scarlet Knights’ top scorer Madison Tiernan has scored only five goals this year, while UW’s top goal-scorer Cara Walls is already in the double-digits with her 11 goals.However, with Rutgers trailing UW by only two wins, the Scarlet Knights’ low offensive numbers speak to how consistent the New Jersey squad’s backline has been. While the Badgers boasted a strong defensive unit all season, Rutgers remained neck-and-neck with them since the beginning, with a nearly identical goals-against average and shutout total.“Rutgers isn’t giving up many goals,” Wilkins said. “They have a really good defense, work really hard and are just solid all over the field.”Sunday afternoon Maryland comes out to McClimon Soccer Complex in what will be the final home game for the Badgers. Maryland (5-4-6, 3-2-5 Big Ten) may be sitting a bit lower than Wisconsin and Rutgers in the conference standings, currently occupying seventh place in the Big Ten, but that may be due to its unusually high number of ties. Considering Maryland has the same number of losses on its record as Wisconsin, it’s understandable why Wilkins and the UW roster aren’t taking the Terrapins lightly.In discussing specific strengths of Maryland, Wilkins mentioned that unlike Rutgers, Maryland thrives on its players being able to stand individually.“Maryland is very good with their individual players on the ball, and good at keeping individual possession,” Wilkins said.But when it comes to offense, Maryland looks to be slightly less of a threat than Rutgers. The Terrapins’ top goal-scorer, Shade Pratt, has notched three goals this season out of Maryland’s 17 total goals.Again, when looking at records and seeing that Maryland has fallen to only two conference opponents this season, each goal scored has been an important one.Wilkins seems to think so, saying that this week in practice she had her team work specifically on its defense and holding possession of the ball.“The biggest thing that we’ve been focusing on is … our ball movement and moving on the ball a little quicker,” Wilkins said. “We need to be organized a bit more defensively.”Coming off a big win against Minnesota last weekend, who they hadn’t beaten since 2010, the Badgers will no doubt have the advantage of momentum carrying them into the weekend. Rutgers, meanwhile, will be fresh off a tough loss to Northwestern, with Maryland winless since Oct. 2.Many of Wisconsin’s top point-scorers contributed to the Minnesota win. Sophomore Rose Lavelle racked up three points and Walls tallied two, pointing to signs that the squad is at its peak right now and ready for its two conference opponents.While it might seem like a huge advantage that Wisconsin is hosting these two games at home, potentially giving the bench extra incentive or even just an extra hour of sleep, Wilkins said that at this point in the season and with such a competitive conference, it might not be enough to give UW a leg up.“Any time you get to play in front of your home crowd there’s a positive effect, but [in] these Big Ten games, the margin for error is so narrow, I think home or away right now, it doesn’t have much effect,” Wilkins said.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *