Women’s soccer kicks off Big Ten season at Purdue, Indiana

first_imgWisconsin goalkeeper Lauren Gunderson started the Badgers\’ four-game shutout streak, against UW-Milwaukee.[/media-credit]If last year is any indication, Wisconsin will be just fine after some early non-conference losses. In 2009, the Badgers lost four non-conference games before heading into Big Ten play. However, that same year they advanced to the Sweet 16, which was the best finish in 16 years for UW.This year, Wisconsin faces a similar situation, having lost three games during the non-conference schedule. However, two key wins last weekend on the road against Tennessee and Vanderbilt have given the team momentum heading into the Big Ten season openers at Purdue and Indiana.“As a coach, you always hope you have momentum,” Wisconsin head coach Paula Wilkins said. “Having success on the road in a hostile environment and playing in bad weather will help us in the Big Ten, because that’s exactly what the Big Ten is all about.”A large reason for the Badgers’ recent success is the play of senior goalkeeper Michele Dalton, who is currently on a three-game shutout streak. Last weekend, she recorded 14 saves in both games combined and was named the Co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.“Dalton made four key saves that helped us get the results last weekend,” Wilkins said. “Something most people don’t know about Dalton is that she has great management and communication skills, which helps her get out of tough situations. Those are intangibles most people don’t see.”While Dalton is playing spectacularly in goal this season, the backline defense of the Badgers may be playing just as well. The defense has been given a boost with the play of freshman Catie Sessions, who recorded the first assist of her career against Tennessee. In the nine games they’ve played so far, the Badgers have only given up five total goals and are currently on a four-game shutout streak as a team, which breaks last year’s record of three straight games.“It’s not just me making saves, it’s a combined effort,” Dalton said. “They [the defenders] are clearing balls out of the back, just as much as I’m making saves. After watching film there are obviously areas where we need to improve, but as a defensive unit we are playing really well.”One of those areas in need of improvement is set-pieces, where four of the five goals the Badgers have given up occurred this season.“I think just by looking at the box score, it’s easy to see that set pieces have obviously been our weakness so far this season,” Dalton said. “However, I think we have corrected those mistakes and we are turning over a new leaf.”One area that doesn’t need improvement for the Badgers is their frontline, namely junior forward Laurie Nosbusch, who has already scored three goals in this young season. She scored a goal in each game last weekend en route to being named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. Nosbusch has led the Badgers in scoring the past two seasons, with 13 goals combined as a freshman and sophomore.“Nosbusch is a goal-scorer and a leader on this team,” Wilkins said. “I think those types of players have more demanded of them. She has risen to the level she needs to be at and is opening up opportunities for other players.”One of the players that has benefited the most from Nosbusch is freshman Kodee Williams, who has played in all eight games this season scoring her first career goal against Washington. Williams has seen time up front with Nosbusch while also playing in the midfield. Heading into the Big Ten season, Wilkins is content with having the flexibility to switch players like Williams around on a game-to-game basis.“The lineups aren’t necessarily set at this point,” Wilkins said. “We have a lot of flexibility with the depth of our bench. Our goal is to attack the other teams’ weaknesses, so our lineup will depend on matchups.”Wisconsin may have three losses heading into this weekend’s road trip to Purdue and Indiana, but as far as the Badger players and coaches are concerned, this weekend is the start of a new season.“I’m excited for the Big Ten season,” Dalton said. “The 2010 season is one season, but I think we can put the non-conference schedule behind us now. This Big Ten conference season is a new season for us. We can put bad losses or mistakes that we’ve made behind us and just look forward.”last_img

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