UW Health Sports Medicine 

Saying goodbye

By Whitney Owusu, Wisconsin women's soccer

"Cherish every moment, because these four years will go by so fast and before you know it, you'll be a senior playing in your last collegiate game." These were the words I heard countless times from coaches, upperclassmen and alums since the time I entered this program three years ago. And like most people, I didn't believe them until I found myself beginning my last preseason ever as a Badger.

My time here on the team was filled with ups and downs. We had a mediocre year my freshmen year, making it to the Big Ten Tournament but failing to make it into the NCAA Tournament. My sophomore and junior years were less than spectacular, considering we failed to even make it into the Big Ten Tournament either year. And then there was my senior year. This has been by far the best year I've had here since my freshman year. Besides the fact that we jumped from being 10th in the Big Ten to now finishing third in conference, we made it to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament! 

The best part of the tournament experience was hosting it. After Senior Day, I didn't think I was ever going to be able to play at McClimon again, but I was wrong. The other seniors and I were able to make an encore appearance at McClimon, and that was the best feeling ever!  

Besides the success we had this year, the thing that made this year even more special was the team's new attitude. This team showed the passion and competitiveness that was missing in the previous seasons. The fact that we never gave up and fought to the end to either win games or tie (Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, to name a few) showed that this program is on the rise and is on its way to being a national contender.  

Apart from the fact that the culture of the team has changed, our team chemistry also changed for the better.  Although we have always had a close team (Paula always calls us nice Wisconsin cheddar girls), our team had become closer and more supportive than ever before. It was nice to see everyone be so supportive and encouraging to one another regardless of how much playing time that person got. With that support and encouragement, we were able to create a friendly competitive environment that benefited us all.

Now I'm quickly going to switch gears and talk about my personal experiences and memories of this season. Going into this season, I was determined to step up my game and put it all out there since this was my last time around. I did not want to look back at this season and think, "I should have done more in that game."  

Besides stepping up my game, I knew that I had to become more of a leader on the field because the majority of the players were underclassmen, so I was going to need to use my experience to help lead the team. It was funny because I remember looking at the starting line-up in one of our earlier games and noticing that the only upperclassmen on the field were Taryn and I.  Surprisingly, I was not nervous at all because, although we were a young team, we were a talented team. This talent helped us do better than expected against the top-ranked teams we played.  

Starting our season out against No. 3 Notre Dame was amazing. We played with passion throughout the game and even though we gave up three goals early in the second half, we never gave up and grew from that experience.

The California trip was by far my favorite trip despite our poor performance against Stanford.  We played well against 12th-ranked Santa Clara but came up short by one goal (although I scored my only collegiate goal in that game!). Against No. 2 Stanford, we didn't prepare ourselves as well as we should have and found ourselves defending the whole game. Although that was a rough game, I believe it marked a turning point for our team because we now saw how we are supposed to play in order to compete with the top teams.  

The main reason why the California trip was my favorite trip was because of our van. Our van consisted of me, Laurie, Erin, the crazy Canadians Moni and Lacey, and Paula. After the Stanford game, we had a couple hours to do whatever we wanted since our flight wasn't leaving until later that night. Since we were in San Francisco, we had to see the Golden Gate Bridge. On our drive up to the bridge, the weather changed from hot and sunny to cold and extremely foggy as we got closer to the bridge. When we got to the bridge, it was so foggy that you couldn't even see it! We all joked about how that would totally happen to us: having the worst game of our lives and then not even being able to go sightseeing because it's too cold and foggy.  

After (not) seeing the bridge, our van went and had the best sushi ever. After that, some of us were still hungry so we made Paula drive all around San Francisco so we could get Cold Stone, or as Lacey calls it "Cold Stonesss" and In-n-Out Burger. The funniest part of the drive around San Francisco was hearing Lacey and Moni screaming about how they wanted to go shopping every time they saw a cute store such as Forever 21 and Guess, while Erin, Paula and I were trying to navigate our way around the city. And poor Laurie was sitting in the back wishing we were already at the airport so she wouldn't have to listen to the craziness any longer! If you know our team, you can probably guess that we have a ton of memorable moments on our trips, but unfortunately I don't have the time to share them all, but if you ask, I'll be happy to share later!

Although I am going to miss the soccer part of this program, the thing I am going to miss the most is being a part of this team. I'm surprised that I'm saying this but I'm going to miss dreading the long runs and hard fitness days, because those were the days that our team really bonded because we knew that we were all suffering together. I am also going to miss going on the team bonding trips and I'm definitely going to miss our pregame dance parties. But most of all, I'm going to miss seeing my teammates everyday and sharing the kinds of experiences and memories that not many people get to say they've had.  

In closing, I just want to thank my coaches for challenging me to push myself to do things that I thought I could never do. And I want to thank my teammates for making my senior year the best I could have ever imagined. You girls are amazing and I will be cheering you guys on as you dominate the Big Ten next year!