Badgers return to Big Ten play at Northwestern

first_imgUW senior defender Brian Bultman is hoping the team can halt the losing streak against Northwestern.[/media-credit]The Wisconsin men’s soccer team returns to Big Ten play Saturday, traveling south to take on No. 16 Northwestern.The Badgers enter the game as underdogs with a 1-2 conference record, and there have been recent concerns over the team’s ability to score coupled with the fact their defensive record has been falling since the beginning of the season.Following a 1-0 road loss to instate rivals UW-Green Bay, the Badgers will be looking for a bit of magic while facing their fourth ranked team of the 2009 campaign. Northwestern currently is on a 10-game unbeaten streak, which they will attempt to build upon against a struggling Wisconsin team.“We all know the game (against UW-Green Bay) was a tough defeat,” senior defender Brian Bultman said. “We’re just trying to really move on and put that one behind us and just look forward to the rest of the season.”Northwestern’s main offensive threat will come from junior Matt Eliason, who currently leads the Big Ten in scoring with 10 goals. Sophomore Oliver Kupe — the other half of the Wildcats’ scoring duo — leads the conference in assists, supplying his team with six scoring passes.Wisconsin’s defense also will be without junior Cale Cooper, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the first half of the season. Senior midfielder Eric Conklin has made the switch to defense in order to fill in for the injured veteran.“It’s been a loss, but Conklin’s done a great job stepping in there,” Bultman said. “We have just as much confidence in Conklin stepping in there as Cale (Cooper).”The Badgers began the season with four shutouts in their first five games, but since then have struggled defensively. Over the past six games, the team has let in at least one goal per game.In response to the negative results, head coach Todd Yeagley has stepped up the intensity during training sessions. In turn, players have reported that despite their recent results, the Wisconsin tactician continues to instill a winning mentality.“Everyone’s showing more intensity and a will to win,” senior midfielder Jon Rzepka said. “I think there’s been an attitude change for sure about how everyone wants to be better. We want to start seeing positive results; definitely, the work has picked up.”It seems Northwestern, despite its record, may have a weakness Yeagley and his squad will look to exploit: The Wildcats have the second-highest goals against average in the conference. Although they have not lost a game since Sept. 7, they also have not defeated a team by more than one goal all season.“Our focus is on us, but we will know them,” Yeagley said. “We will make sure our players are aware of their tendencies. We know if we perform well and execute the key aspects on both sides of the ball, then that’ll help us be in a situation to get a good result.”In their last conference game versus Michigan State, senior striker Scott Lorenz looked to have broken Wisconsin’s scoring drought by putting two past the Spartan keeper. But the following game against UW-Green Bay, its poor attacking form returned to the dismay of Wisconsin soccer fans.At the end of the day, however, the first-year head coach realizes results is the thing that matters. But despite this, he still believes the team has been improving week by week.“Scoring goals is difficult,” Yeagley said. “We’re plugging away, and we haven’t lost any confidence although we haven’t been scoring.”“We need to start taking advantage of our small chances,” Rzepka added. “We need to just jump on half-chances and follow up on any mistakes by the keeper.”Last year when Wisconsin battled Northwestern, the Wildcats were ranked second in the nation and the Badgers still managed to come away with a respectable 2-1 loss.“Northwestern is a very disciplined and organized unit,” Yeagley said. “This will be a great test for our group.”last_img read more