While offense struggles, back line holds strong

first_imgHaving just finished what turned out to be the most difficult week of the season so far, the Wisconsin women’s soccer team looks to have some of its mojo back on defense.With a 2-0 win over Northwestern Sunday, the Badgers recorded their 11th shutout of the season. Wisconsin (12-2-1, 6-2-1 Big Ten) has led the Big Ten in shutouts for a good portion of this season, and, up until this past week, hadn’t been shutout by any opponent.But right after suffering a rare 2-0 loss to No. 6 Penn State a week ago, Iowa shut down UW’s front line as well last Wednesday in a scoreless tie, stumping an offense that has been successful throughout the majority of the fall.What these past few conference matchups have proven to UW and the rest of the Big Ten is that, while Badger offense is a force to be reckoned with, the team’s impassable defense is what might be carrying the squad into the championship portion of the season.While UW’s entire backline has performed consistently throughout the last few months, redshirt senior goalkeeper Genevieve Richard has been a rock for the defensive unit whenever the ball does get through the back four. Sunday afternoon, despite UW taking home the win, Northwestern outshot the Badgers, racking up 10 shots on goal over the two halves, while UW only put up five. But Richard was up to the task and finished with a career-high 10 saves to earn her ninth clean sheet of the year.Last week after the tie against Iowa, Richard said from her perspective, blocking shots does more than just denying opponents a tally on the scoreboard; preventing scoring in turn generates momentum for a team’s front line.“I need to not let any goals in so I can in turn give us a chance to score,” Richard said.The statistics sheet suggests that this is a mindset the entire UW defense unit shares. Aside from leading the Big Ten in shutouts, the Badgers are only trailing Rutgers, who has yielded just four goals, in goals allowed and goals-against-average, denying almost all their opponents opportunities to score. Wisconsin has given up just six goals in 15 games, giving it a meager 0.39 goals-against-average.In fact, many opponents’ offensive units have had to readjust to Wisconsin’s powerful defense during the game, an obvious indicator that the team is doing something right, as was the case with Iowa last Wednesday night, Richard said.“When you see the other team modify their corners when the play against you, it’s always a good sign,” Richard said.If UW can keep up this type of control on defensive, the offense will only have to find the back of the net once or twice a game to come out with a win.Another fifth-year senior, Kodee Williams, commented on her team’s slight offensive slump lately, saying the key lies in having the right attitude.“We’ve had a pretty tough stretch here, and going forward I think it’s just going to be about being positive and doing the things that we do right,” Williams said.For UW, going forward from here means concentrating on the last four games of the regular season. All four are conference games, and all four will prove to be challenges to Wisconsin.First up will be Minnesota this coming weekend. The Golden Gophers sit two places behind UW in the conference. Despite its lower standing in the conference, Minnesota lost to Michigan and Penn State, the Big Ten’s top two teams, by one less goal than Wisconsin and could prove to have a solid defense of its own.The following Friday, Oct. 24, will see Rutgers come to town, pitting the top two defensive units against one another. Finally, Wisconsin will finish off the season against Maryland and Illinois, ranked side-by-side just below Minnesota in the Big Ten.This homestretch will give the Badgers a chance to really test their defense to see if it can indeed carry them into the Big Ten tournament.The final four games will also provide UW’s offense a chance to turn things around, because despite three of the four teams lagging behind Wisconsin in wins, the Big Ten is known for being a competitive conference where no team can be taken lightly.“Anything can happen in the Big Ten,” Williams said.last_img

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