Women’s soccer starts strong, knock off Nebraska

first_imgWhat’s the best way to bounce back from a last-minute loss? A first-minute goal would be a good suggestion.The Wisconsin women’s soccer team (8-1-0, 2-1-0 Big Ten) took on Nebraska (4-4-1, 0-2-1 Big Ten) in the Badgers’ Big Ten home opener Saturday, and redshirt senior forward Kodee Williams was clearly ready to get back on the pitch after last Sunday’s debacle at Michigan. Fifty-eight seconds into the first half, following a Nebraska turnover and subsequent breakaway, Williams took it all the way past the keeper, chipping it into the net on the far post for her third score of the season.Looking back on the quick strike, Williams said she believed the early aggression not only paid off early, but it set the tone for the rest of the match.“Well to be honest, it was all in the game plan, and I really have to give credit to [head coach] Paula [Wilkins] for this,” Williams said. “We have sort of been playing a restraining line that’s been out by the center circle, and this game we knew we had to press, so we pressed the first minute of the game and it worked.”Following that wild first minute of the match, Nebraska seemed to settle down defensively and figure things out for the next 15 minutes. While the Badgers dominated possession on the attacking half, they were unable to finish multiple opportunities and also drew multiple offside penalties that squashed some accurate lobs into the box from midfielder McKenna Meuer. The score remained 1-0 Badgers going into the 18th minute.After continuing to control the ball, the Badgers managed to find a breakthrough again in the 19th minute. After a series of offensive miscues, Meuer connected with redshirt junior forward Marisa Kresge on a perfectly placed lob pass. What followed was a race to the ball between Kresge and Nebraska goalkeeper Kelly Shatz. Kresge finished the job by getting there first for the lob shot to make it 2-0, her third goal of the season.By no means did the Huskers have a silent showing offensively in the first half, outshooting the Badgers 7-3 and putting redshirt senior goalkeeper Genevieve Richard to the test for one of the first times at home this season. Nebraska’s star forward sophomore Jaycie Johnson led the charge with three shots on goal in an attempt to add to her six goals and two assists already in the season. Richard, however, had different plans for the Huskers, playing the role of spoiler to the tune of six saves on the night. A diving-save in the upper left corner following a Nebraska breakaway at the end of the first half highlighted Richard’s performance.In any given Big Ten game, the competition tends to become a bit chippy at times. Saturday night was no exception, with Wisconsin committing nine of the night’s 13 fouls. Wilkins credited Nebraska’s style of play for being able to draw so many penalties.“I think that’s one thing that Nebraska always does. That’s one thing I have great respect for is they are invested in their attack and their defending,” Wilkins said. “They don’t do anything really slow, and so I think that’s something I really respect about them. They have a culture on their team to do that and I think that makes the game a bit physical.”Similar to the past victories at home, the defensive backline of junior Brianna Stelzer; redshirt senior Alexandra Heller; sophomore Kylie Schwarz; and junior Molly Laufenberg helped secure the lead with consistent clearances on balls in the box and accurate passes to the midfield for eventual scoring opportunities.In five home games this season, the Badgers have allowed just one goal. Stelzer credits the experience of the backline for their success.“We’ve been playing together for so long that we just know what each of us is capable of doing, and we just know each other and communicate well,” Stelzer said.The second half started with the Huskers coming out strong, dominating possession and essentially camping out in the attacking half. The scariest moment for Wisconsin came five minutes into the second half following a loose ball in the Badger’s box. With an open look past Richard, the Huskers had what was sure to be their first score of the night, but with a combination of good fortune and instinct, the shot was saved right at the line by Laufenberg.The rest of the game consisted mostly of a battle for the ball in the middle part of the field. Despite being down 2-0, the Huskers appeared unaggressive for most of the half and didn’t chase too hard after crosses into the box. Their formations were more conservative, as if they were trying to play the counterattack and get breakaways off Badger miscues.Junior midfielder Kinley McNicoll had an open look at the net following a ricochet in the Huskers’ box off Williams for the easy close-range shot, her seventh goal of the year. With one last chance to salvage something positive from the match, Nebraska had a breakaway in the 89th minute. The shot got past Richard, but sailed wide right. It basically summed up the night on offense for the defending Big Ten Champions.The one word Wilkins chose to sum up the night? “Serendipity.”The outcome was certainly a pleasant surprise for Wilkins and the Badgers, considering UW hasn’t beaten Nebraska, one of the Big Ten premier squads, since 2011.The Badgers will be on the pitch next against Indiana, Sep. 26 and Purdue, Sep. 28 as they continue their Big Ten stretch on the road.last_img read more