The Badgers' bus pulled out of Madison on Friday afternoon around 4:30 p.m. CT. The travel party got a slightly later start than planned after remaining in Madison until the conclusion of the UW men's basketball game against Wofford in the opening round of their NCAA tournament. Fortunately, the Badgers pulled off the "W" in the nail-biter, advancing to face Cornell in the second round.
Strength and conditioning coach Ray Eady's son Taylen was, as always, a Badger favorite on the bus. From sharing fruit snacks with junior Tara Steinbauer to snapping photos with senior Rae Lin D'Alie, Taylen kept the players entertained. In addition, the Badgers passed the time on their laptops, listening to music, playing "I Spy" and enjoying one another's company.
The team handled the four-hour bus ride pretty well but became restless (or was it hungry?) in the last 20 minutes of the ride. Several moans of, "Are we there yet?" and "How much longer?" echoed through the bus, but fortunately it wasn't until we were moments from the hotel.
The Badgers quickly dropped off their bags in their hotel rooms and headed down to dinner at the hotel. With full stomachs, the players then retreated to their rooms for the night - but not before a quick storytelling session courtesy of Alyssa Karel and Steinbauer in the hallway.
Saturday morning began with a couple administrative meetings regarding tournament policies and schedules. UW participated in a news conference before the morning practice sessions as well. Senior Teah Gant and juniors Lin Zastrow and Karel joined Coach Lisa Stone in addressing the media.
The group took questions from the media regarding the team's success this season and their foundation of team unity. They talked about how Wisconsin compares to Vermont and how the Badgers are approaching tomorrow's game against the Catamounts.
Following the news conference, the team held an hour-long open practice. Media members and fans alike watched the Badgers as they prepared for tomorrow's game. The team mostly worked on fundamentals and shooting, concluding the practice session with an around-the-world contest. The atmosphere was light even though the team was focused.
The juniors and seniors took on the sophomores and freshmen in a free throw contest, too. The friendly competition in all of the Badgers came out as the players teased and razzed one another during each player's turn at the line. Coach Stone refereed the contest from half court, smiling and laughing at her team's antics. Freshman Taylor Wurtz made two free throws despite relentless distractions from the upperclassmen, led by D'Alie and Steinbauer.
The practice was open to media, fans and the general public. A few Badger fans trickled in toward the end, but it mostly looked like Notre Dame and Vermont fans came out to scout UW. It sounds like a lot of Badger fans will be coming down to South Bend later this afternoon and tomorrow. Hopefully the weather holds up for those who are still traveling!
Immediately after the open practice, the team headed across the Joyce Center to Notre Dame's auxiliary gym for its closed practice. The team picked up the intensity right away, going live after just a few minutes of warm-ups.
After about 50 minutes of hard work, the Badgers lightened the mood with some half-court shot attempts. Freshman Aly Bucierka and Assistant Coach Kathi Bennett were the closest, as both shots banked off the rim and just missed. Even Associate Athletic Director Terry Gawlik got in on the action.
The team concluded the practice by lining up at half court and bending over to knock on the court 22 times, signifying the 22nd win that Wisconsin is in search of tomorrow.
This afternoon, the group will arrive back at the hotel just in time for lunch and shortly thereafter, dinner out on the town. So far, we are having a great trip - and hopefully it will just keep getting better!