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April 2011 Archives

Lucas at Large: Smash-mouth stereotype fits Moffitt, Kendricks

Because of their tailback-oriented offense, and huge linemen, the Badgers have always been associated with "smash-mouth'' football. That image has been perpetuated in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Leave it to John Moffitt to be at the heart of the stereotyping.

After the Seattle Seahawks made Moffitt their third-round selection, coach Pete Carroll was struggling to find the right words to describe the UW left guard to the Seattle media.

That's when Seahawks general manager John Schneider weighed in. "The guy's a (butt) kicker,'' said Schenider. "That's really where it starts with this guy ... he's nasty ... we like those guys.''

That's exactly what Tom Cable was looking for, too. Cable, the former Oakland Raiders head coach, is now in charge of coaching the Seahawks' offensive line. Cable has a tough-guy persona.

That was reflected in Seattle's first two selections in the draft: Alabama offensive tackle James Carpenter was the No. 25 pick in the first round, while Moffitt was No. 75 overall.

Carpenter (6-4, 321) is expected to start at right tackle and Moffitt (6-4, 319) at right guard for a retooled Seahawks offense that ranked No. 31 in the NFL in rushing the football last season.

About a week ago, Cable told Schneider, "In your wildest dreams if you could pick two guys to get in the draft, it would be these two (Carpenter and Moffitt). It's a pretty neat day for us.''

The Seahawks liked Moffitt so much that they were seriously considering taking him in the second round. Instead, they traded out of that round to get some extra picks later in the draft.

"The coolest thing about it was that our guy was sitting there - Moffitt was sitting there,'' said Schneider, "and he sat there for another 18 picks. He stayed there and we were really excited about it.''

As the former director of football operations with the Green Bay Packers, Schneider has a good working knowledge of Badger football.  So does Cable after doing his pre-draft homework.

"They allowed us,'' Cable said, "to go and check them out (Carpenter and Moffitt) and really dig into these guys, find out if they're really real guys, not fluffy and all that other cute stuff.

"They like to work. They like to handle it when it's tough. They're real purpose driven ... I think both guys bring an attitude that kind of fits what we're looking for - extremely competitive guys.''

Moffitt didn't waste any time endearing himself to the Seahawks press corps. When he was quizzed about being 24 years old, he replied, "I joined the Peace Corps for a year, so I lost a year.''

After a comedic pause, he removed his tongue from his cheek.

"I'm kidding,'' he said. "I didn't join the Peace Corps. I transferred high schools and I repeated a year. I didn't want to tell you I'm like Billy Madison. The Peace Corps thing sounds so much better.''

Interjected Carroll, "I don't want to sell him short, he's probably not Peace Corps material.''

Billy Madison, though?

Moffitt referenced an Adam Sandler character, Billy Madison, who repeated grades 1-12.

"I'm a physical player,'' said Moffitt, turning serious when asked to describe his game. "I think I bring a lot of physicality to the line. And I think I'm an intelligent player as well.

"It's important for me to know what I'm doing out there and understand the game and develop mentally as well as physically.''

Lance Kendricks' physicality was also broached after the St. Louis Rams took the former UW tight end in the second round of Friday's draft with the 47th selection overall.

After making the conversion from a high school wide receiver, he became a more physical player in the Badgers' system, especially at the point of attack on running plays when he was used as an H-Back.

"I take a lot of pride in things such as blocking,'' said Kendricks, a Milwaukee native.

The Rams sounded thrilled to add to quarterback Sam Bradford's arsenal.

"We think he'll be a valuable weapon in this offense,'' said St. Louis general manager Billy Devaney. "Everybody was excited about the thought of this guy being here.

"He's really athletic, he's got great hands, he's extremely smart. He can run, he has good speed. We can use in him in a lot of ways. There are a lot of places we can use this guy.''

On the type of players the Rams are looking for, head coach Steve Spagnulo cut to the chase.

"We're adding good football players,'' he said.

That describes Moffitt and Kendricks.

Culture of tenacity

In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's doubleheader sweep at Iowa on Wednesday night. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What an amazing doubleheader sweep at Iowa Wednesday night. It was our first Big ten sweep of the 2011 season and the first time the Badgers have ever swept Iowa at Iowa. I'm so proud of this group of young women.

The Wisconsin Softball team has played with a lot of energy and passion this season. We came from behind in both wins last night in Iowa. We actually tied the record for most comeback wins in school history with 14.

As a coach, you want your athletes to play hard every game, every inning and every out. You challenge them to believe in themselves and their teammates, to fight and to never give up. That culture of tenacity is being established here in Madison, and it's one of our greatest sources of pride.

We just earned our sixth Big Ten victory Wednesday night with wins this season over Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota. Whitney Massey, Mary Massei and Shannel Blackshear all had huge home runs for us. Abby Gregory provided a huge spark off the bench, utilizing her speed to score the game-winning run in the seventh inning of game one.

We're 26-19 right now as we prepare for No. 2 Michigan to come to Madison this weekend. What an exciting way to wrap up our season. We have eight games left, and we have the opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country at home to kick off the month of May! We know what a powerhouse Michigan softball is. We're thrilled to compete against one of the best teams in the country in front of our friends and family this weekend.

Lucas at Large: First-round dreams come true

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Although UW offensive tackle Gabe Carimi took a pass on attending the NFL draft in New York City - choosing instead to surround himself with family and friends at his parent's home in Cottage Grove - there were still two former Badgers represented in the green room at Radio City Music Hall.

One was Justin James Watt, the former walk-on from Central Michigan and the pride of Pewaukee, who was taken by the Houston Texans with the 11th pick in the first round.

You know him as J.J.

The other was Zois Panagiotopoulos, the former walk-on from UW-Whitewater and the pride of Brookfield, who was an All-Big Ten tackle and captain on the 1994 Rose Bowl team at Wisconsin.

You know him as Joe.

No ordinary Joe.

Thursday night, Joe Panos was in the green room with clients: USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith who went to the Cowboys at No. 9; and Baylor guard Danny Watkins who went to the Eagles at No. 23.

Panos is the director of football operations for the LMM Sports Management team; a West Coast agency that was founded by Eddie DeBartolo, the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers.

Ethan Lock is the "L'' and the CEO.

Eric Metz is one of the "M's'' and the president

Vance Malinovic is the other "M'' and a vice-president.

After embarking down this path as a sports agent, Panos said, "For years, people have told me that I'd be great at this. Moms and dads trust me. I'm outgoing. I can relate to kids. I'm passionate.''

Panos, who's a UW Athletic Hall of Famer, sounds a lot like Watt, who has put himself in a position to do what Erasmus James, Wendell Bryant and Darryl Sims were unable to do.

That is ...

Watt has a chance to live up to the hype and expectations and play 10 years in the NFL - unlike the three aforementioned UW defensive linemen who were also tabbed in the first round of the draft.

Watt's motor best resembles Tim Krumrie's motor, and Krumrie was an All-Pro with the Bengals. Krumrie was also an afterthought in the1983 draft; a 10th-round pick and the 276th selection overall.

(After coaching stints with the Bengals, the Bills and the Chiefs, the 50-year-old Krumrie is now on Jerry Glanville's staff with the Hartford Colonels of the United Football League.)

Watt will be joining two former Badgers on the Houston roster: tight ends Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham. "They say nothing but great things about the Texans' fans,'' Watt said.

In this context, it didn't take Watt long to win over his new fan base. "It's a great day to be a Texan,'' he gushed on a conference call Thursday night with the Houston media.

Asked about lining up as a defensive tackle, he said, "That's fine by me. I'm more than happy to move inside in certain situations. I feel very comfortable playing anywhere along the defensive line.''

That preceded this punch line. "The goal is to sack Peyton Manning,'' said Watt, who will get two chances annually against the Indy quarterback. "That's what everyone around here is saying.''

In the next breath, he added, "That's my job.''

Expanding on that thought, Watt said, "That's definitely the goal of a defensive end - to sack quarterbacks. To me it doesn't matter what number of jersey they're wearing. I want to get them all.''

Carimi's job description obviously differs from Watt's in that he has been entrusted by the Chicago Bears, who took him at No. 29, to prevent pass rushers from sacking quarterback Jay Cutler.

Carimi has a chance to exceed the playing career of another former UW offensive lineman, Dennis Lick, who played six seasons in Chicago after being taken No. 8 overall in the 1976 draft.

Said NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock, "I think the kid (Carimi) is a plug-and-play right tackle. "Throw him in there and he's a starter on day one. And he's a starter for the next 10 years.''

Carimi was a natural fit for the Bears and offensive line coach Mike Tice, whose son, Nate, is a backup quarterback for the Badgers. Tice is the former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

"I had a great feeling I would end up with the Bears,'' Carimi said. "I can't be happier.''

If you're looking for an offensive lineman, ESPN analyst Jon Gruden figures that you can't go wrong tapping into Wisconsin.

"Let's face it,'' he said, "the Badgers maul you.''

Badger hockey still playing

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We're on the cusp of May and the college hockey season is a memory, but you can still catch Badgers playing hockey on television these days.

There are five alumni left playing in the NHL playoffs and all in the Western Conference. You can catch them live on Versus and NBC over the next couple of weeks.Beginning tonight (Thursday), the Nashville Predators Ryan Suter and Blake Geoffrion take on Vancouver with hopes of advancing to the conference finals. Nashville just won its first-ever playoff series.

Joe Pavelski, Dany Heatley and the San Jose Sharks take on Brian Rafalski and the Detroit Red Wings in the second round beginning Friday. Wisconsin's head coach Mike Eaves will have an added interest in the series as his son Patrick skates for the Red Wings.

Also Friday, the 2011 IIHF World Championships begin in Kosice, Slovakia. The current roster is just shy of one-quarter Badgers, with five of the 23 having skated for Wisconsin. Current Badger forward Craig Smith (Madison, Wis.), is joined by 2011 Second-Team All-American defenseman Jake Gardiner (Minnetonka, Minn.), as well as 2006 NCAA West Regional hero Jack Skille (Madison, Wis.), and New York Ranger teammates Derek Stepan (Hastings, Minn.) and Ryan McDonagh (Arden Hills, Minn.).

The U.S. will face Austria, Norway and Sweden in preliminary-round play April 30 - May 4 before advancing to either the Qualification or Relegation Round. Team USA's first six games will be aired live on Versus, which will also broadcast both of the tournament's semifinal games on May 13 and the gold-medal tilt on May 15.

Badger alum Jim Johannson serves as USA Hockey's Assistant Executive Director, Hockey Operations and is part of the team's staff.

Three Badgers remain in the AHL playoffs, as the league reaches the second round. Ben Street's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins take on the Charlotte Checkers, Kyle Klubertanz' Hamilton Bulldogs face the Manitoba Moose and Robbie Earl's Houston Aeros will battle the Milwaukee Admirals.

The ECHL has reached the conference finals in the Kelly Cup playoffs and one Badger remains. The Victoria Salmon Kings Ryan MacMurchy is the sole survivor.

Lucas at Large: Block's accomplishments carry plenty of weight

Block_Dan_Elite_11_2.jpgLast weekend, UW men's track coach Ed Nuttycombe headed to an invitational meet in Arkansas with the thought of escaping the inclement Midwest spring. Think again. It rained in Fayetteville.

Nonetheless, he was able to get a good read on his three decathletes - David Grezesiak, Derek Steinbach and Ian Jansen. Despite the conditions, they finished second, third and sixth, respectively.

Grezesiak fell just short of a personal-best. "It was raining while he was throwing the discus,'' Nuttycombe said, "and he couldn't keep his footing. There was standing water everywhere.''

While that was happening, UW freshman Dan Block was making another splash in the discus. Competing in San Diego, he got off a throw of 192 feet, 5 inches; the longest by a collegian in the meet.

Consider this: Block has broken the school record in the discus in each of the past three outings.

"He's had some warm-up throws that have been in excess of 200 feet,'' Nuttycombe said. "It's just a matter of time before he catches one of those. He's showing there's more there.''

Block, who also throws the shot put, has already shown that he can make the adjustment to a higher level of competition after excelling as a high school thrower in the state of Illinois.

"There are a few events that don't change from high school to college,'' Nuttycombe said. "The 100 is still the 100 and the mile is still the mile. But the throwing implements get heavier.''

Nuttycombe paid Block the ultimate compliment by comparing him athletically to Joe Thomas, the former UW offensive tackle and Outland Trophy winner. Thomas also loved to compete in track.

"He's basically the same type of athlete,'' Nuttycombe said, "in that he's a very large person but he moves like he's much smaller. It's rare when you have big guys who move like Joe and Dan.''

Nuttycombe cited UW assistant Dave Astrauskas for bringing the best out of Block. Astrauskas previously coached at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville where he mentored Scott Block -- Dan's brother.

"Dan is tall and lanky and now his strength is starting to show; he's going to be a real good one,'' Nuttycombe said. "In the discus, he's already the best we've ever had; by far, no question.''

Nuttycombe is not prone to hyperbole. So his words carry weight. Literally.

"When it's all said and done,'' he predicted, "Dan Block is going to be the best weight guy we've ever had here.''

The Mrs. happy to have The Voice home ... for now

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By Linda Lepay
Mrs. Voice of the Badgers

Matt_Linda_Lepay.jpgMrs. Voice is here again to close out another Badger sports season. The Voice has already begun his post-season antics, which include watching his beloved Cincinnati Reds, the NBA playoffs and The Weather Channel.  

I'm often asked how Matt became a sports announcer because, let's face it, this is not your typical cubicle-dwelling career path. There's a certain combination of education, experience, luck and plain stubbornness that plays a role in having what many would consider a "dream" job.

I've devised a quiz to help determine if you have the interest and instinct to perhaps be a play-by-play announcer.

1. In college you study:
    a)  journalism
    b)  communications
    c)  study?!

2. You analyze and imitate the voice of:
    a)  Al Michaels
    b)  Gus Johnson
    c)  The Situation

3. The most inspiring sports movie is:
    a)  Field of Dreams
    b)  The Blind Side
    c)  Caddyshack

4. To prepare for a football game you:

    a)  attend practice
    b)  study game tape
    c)  play EA Sports NCAA Football

5. The rule of thumb on game day is:
    a)  be uber-prepared
    b)  decorum in the press box
    c)  saunter into the booth about five minutes before kickoff/tipoff

6. In the off-season you typically

    a)  emcee a number of events
    b)  take part in charity outings
    c)  watch Spike TV

If you answered mostly C you won't have a career as a sports announcer but you will be the life of any party.

If you answered A or B you may have the aptitude to make a go of it. Keep in mind there is no money in the early years and you work long hours, which averages out to an income of, oh, fifty cents per hour. Actors make better money and average more gigs than aspiring PBP guys.

Or you can live vicariously by following your favorite sportscasters. This is often more lucrative, allowing you free time to be a fan.

Summer allows Matt to keep a more reasonable schedule, watch the endless NBA playoffs and do things besides sports. I am happy to spend extra time with him. Okay, I'm happy to spend all that time with him until late July when he needs to get back to his in-season schedule.

Ask any sports media wife and she'll agree that all the together time is great -- for awhile. We wives are an independent bunch and not accustomed to having them home. All the time. Wanting dinner. Watching sports on TV (did I mention the NBA playoffs?).

We hope you have a terrific summer full of warm weather (there will be warm weather, right?) and fun activities. Keep your dreams alive.

Note: Matt Lepay's regular "The Voice" blog will return this fall.

What they're saying about the Badgers

The media caught up with the UW women's tennis team during the past week to cover the final weekend of the regular season and look ahead to this week's Big Ten tournament. Head coach Brian Fleishman discussed his take on the conference tournament, while his players expressed praise for their coach's approach to tennis.

Badger Herald reviews spring season

With the Badgers' spring season winding down, the Badger Herald caught up with Arnel Zahirovic, Colin Mani, Colin Monasterio and head coach John Trask to learn what the team has gained from the spring season. Read the whole story here: 

Badger Herald: Men's soccer team coming together for spring matchups (April 20)

Archived Gameday Blog: Women's Tennis vs. Illinois

Justin Mozer chronicled all the action in Wisconsin's Big Ten Conference match against Illinois on April 24, 2011 at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison, Wis. The Badgers won 4-3.


Archived Gameday Blog: Women's Tennis vs. Iowa

Justin Mozer chronicled all the action in Wisconsin's Big Ten Conference match against Iowa on April 23, 2011 at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison, Wis. The Badgers won 4-3.


Overcoming a tough loss

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's tough extra-inning loss to Illinois and what the team needs to do to overcome it. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What a heartbreaking loss in extra innings to Illinois today. We played our hearts out and had some huge clutch hits and pitches to give us chances to win. We pitched well and played with a ton of heart and pride. I am so proud of this group of young women. Their tenacity and fight amazes me!

I am sure all of our student-athletes and coaches are taking this loss hard. I'm sure the parents and fans are heartbroken too. When you come so close to beating top-30 teams two weekends in a row, it wears on you. These losses make you question everything. Yet just because we didn't come out on top, doesn't mean our strategy or philosophy is wrong. We didn't give anything away today. Illinois just outplayed us in extra innings. But for seven straight innings, we played tough.

Garner's versatility has Badgers thinking big

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Spring_Day5 041.jpgManasseh Garner was born too late. There may not be another player on the UW roster better equipped to play one platoon football; which flourished between the mid-'50s and mid-'60s.

Garner is a throw-back; a multi-skilled athlete who's comfortable on offense or defense.

"The kid is as athletic as all-outdoors," said safety Aaron Henry.

At Pittsburgh's Brashear High School, Garner was an impact player at linebacker and receiver. As a prep, there were also times when he lined up as a dual threat running-throwing quarterback.

As a true freshman in 2010, Garner introduced himself to Badger fans by playing on both sides of the ball in a late September rout of Austin Peay. He took snaps as a receiver and defensive end.

In Wisconsin's win over No. 1-ranked Ohio State, Garner distinguished himself on special teams, collecting three tackles on the kickoff cover unit. He got some turns rushing Terrelle Pryor, too.

Such has been his versatility, and value.

Coming into spring practice, there was the thought Garner would finally get a chance to establish himself at H-Back, but he was also needed at wide receiver because of a void in the rotation.

Due to the graduation losses of David Gilreath and Isaac Anderson and an injury to Nick Toon, there was a pressing need for someone to compete with Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Duckworth.

That role has been shared by Garner, redshirt freshman Isaiah Williams and true freshman Kenzel Doe.  Another redshirt freshman, Chase Hammond, has been in the mix.

In the meantime, Marquis Mason has been sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury.
Garner, to his credit, doesn't look or act like someone who has been on campus for only two semesters. In fact, he has shown a maturity beyond his year.

Field of 16: Tweeting 16 observations until tip-off

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NEW ORLEANS, La. -- In honor of the Badgers' appearance in the 2011 NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16, @BadgerMBBall sent out 16 Tweets with observations and commentary leading up to the fourth-round match-up between No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 8 Butler.

Patrick Herb was with the team in New Orleans and you can follow him here.

If you're not a follower, why not? But here's what you've missed...

16. One of the loosest teams you'll find, jokes begin upon landing. Whose lonely shoes arrived early? #Fieldof16 http://twitpic.com/4c8ews

15. Badgers doing 2-a-days in March? Yup, practiced at home this AM then at Tulane in PM. Did same in Tucson. #stickwithwhatworks #Fieldof16

14. Incredible seafood gumbo at the team meals. They're bringing the flavor of NOLA to us (9 bowl limit boys). #Fieldof16

13. ESPN's Rick Reilly was re-creating Bo Ryan's golf swing for Jordan, Jon & Keaton. He might have used the word Barkley. #Fieldof16

12. Bo Ryan to his good buddy and redhead Pete Gillen "Mike Bruesewitz is the first red-haired guy I've known with talent." #Fieldof16

11. UW always ends shoot-around with half-court shooting contests, bigs vs smalls. Gavinski & Leuer both made 1 for the win. #Fieldof16

10. Guys may take cable car tour of French Qtr. Nankivil: "it's like Jurassic Park, fun to look but u don't wanna touch anything" #Fieldof16

9. It's Gameday! Lots of down time with late start. That means sleeping in, breakfast & study table: http://twitpic.com/4ctjmg #Fieldof16

8. Open container laws in New Orleans. Just spotted Keaton Nankivil walking thru French Qtr with an open bottle... of Pedialyte. #Fieldof16

7. Scouting report at 3:50 but ALL 15 guys were there watching Butler film 30 minutes early. #Focus #Fieldof16 http://twitpic.com/4cwggl

6. Long lines outside New Orleans Arena. Saw lots of you in the French Qtr today, Badger fans. Now get here early and turn it red #Fieldof16

5. Badger cheerleaders sitting among Butler cheer squad watching Florida-BYU. Not much conversation, though. #whycan'twebefriends #Fieldof16

4. Badgers are in the house. Game on in NOLA at 8:57 on TBS. #Fieldof16 http://twitpic.com/4cxkfx

3. Bo Ryan: "It takes contributions from every source to get where u are going." UW bench avg 16.5 pts in AZ (9.7 pts in Big Ten) #Fieldof16 

2. Jon Leuer gave his pregame speech. Message was, this is what we've done all the hard work for. EARN the right to play again! #Fieldof16

1. Time to tip it off in New Orleans. Follow Badgers-Bulldogs live with the Gameday Blog: http://bit.ly/dKPjMh #Fieldof16

Field of 32: Tweeting 32 observations until tip-off

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Badgers advanced to the 2011 NCAA Tournament Round of 32, and that meant @BadgerMBBall sent out 32 Tweets with observations and commentary leading up to the second round NCAA tournament game between No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 5 Kansas State.

Patrick Herb was with the team in Tucson and you can follow him here.

If you're not a follower, why not? But here's what you've missed...

32. Bo Ryan postgame: "I'm not happy to just be here & I don't want to be around people who are. We're here for a reason."

31. Watching games in the locker rm before practice, Brett Valentyn deadpanned "George Mason could be this year's George Mason."

30. Q Smith doing his best Jacob Pullen imitation at practice (minus the beard) http://twitpic.com/4as8bx

29. We just found out the team is scheduled to arrive back in Madison on Sunday at 4:15 a.m. Prepare the welcome party.

28. Best UW hoops behind the scenes access video I've seen. Amazing access to the team: http://ow.ly/4hADJ

27. A member of the Wis. media just tripped over a giant light standard in the press conference causing near chaos & Hi comedy

26. When asked if there are any roads in WI that he doesn't know, Bo said "I don't think so cuz otherwise I'd know about them."

25. Tremendous food at hotel. Eating Margherita flatbread pizza Bo Ryan: "I don't even know what this is but I can't get enough"

24. Remember the near chaos in tweet 27? Jordan Taylor gets to the bottom of it with the perpetrator http://twitvid.com/G7KQG

23. Wake up call was at 9:15, then breakfast, watch a little ball, scouting report, eat again, get taped and tangle with K-State.

22. I'm not sure if K-State scout Gary Close has slept either of last 2 nights... Still cutting film http://twitpic.com/4b3tz3

21. Redshirt freshman Evan Anderson: "I could never live here. You could never mow your lawn."

20. CBS reporter Sam Ryan moved to tears by strength of @BValentyn15's family & sister Kenzi. Cross those fingers tonite Kenzi!

19. Jordan Taylor was rebuffed at the hotel spa upon learning the cheapest massage was $150. Per diem only goes so far.

18. Going over the scouting report on K-State, Keaton Nankivil learning his assignments: http://twitpic.com/4b5e52

17. Wis Athletic Director Barry Alvarez is in AZ supporting the team and getting a little pool time.

16. Gotta love police escorts at the NCAA tournament: http://twitpic.com/4b76fr

15. Focused look as the team boards the buses, but they can't help but smile as they exit hotel and hear On Wisconsin! Playing

14. Badgers are welcomed back to the McKale Center and sitting in stands watching SDSU vs Temple

13. Bo Ryan just said the work Big Ten teams beating each other up this year is paying dividends in tourney. BT is 5-2 in NCAA

12. Team looks loose groovin in the locker room to Method Man's Da Rockwilder and Kanye's All of the Lights. Tradition.

11. Badgers getting anxious in locker room as SDSU and Temple game goes overtime. They have a game clock but no tv in there.

10. NOBODY better at keeping a pressure situation loose than UW strength coach Scott Hettenbach. He or Evan Anderson's dancing

9. "Saddle up"... Badgers take the floor here in in Tucson.

8. Official tip time is now 8:06 pm for Wisconsin vs. Kansas State on TNT.

7. NCAA didn't have to clear the arena before tonight's game so the atmosphere is much better as the team's warm up. Fans buzzing

6. Starting lineup for the Badgers (this should look familiar): Taylor, Gasser, Jarmusz, Leuer, Nankivil

5. For the Wildcats: Jacob Pullen, Shane Southweell, Rodney MaGruder, Jamar Samuels, Curtis Kelly

4. Have you seen KSU's mascot? I'd take Bucky any day. He has a full body. Willie Wildcat is a cat head with a man's body

3. Red out-numbers Purple at the McKale Center... of course it does!

2. Lineups time! http://twitpic.com/4b8vdr #Fieldof32

1. The Gameday Blog is live from courtside at the McKale Center. Time to toss it up. http://bit.ly/gSU5YC

The Voice: Plenty to watch as Badgers hit field Saturday

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgFans thinking about attending this Saturday's spring football game probably have a few questions, not the least of which is the weather. Hopefully it will be a decent spring day, but given we can't control Mother Nature, here are some other things you might want to watch at Camp Randall Stadium:

The tailback position appears to be in very good shape. Montee Ball and James White provide a very good one-two punch, but Jeff Lewis and fifth-year senior Zach Brown also are battling to get in the mix.

Whoever runs the ball should have a good offensive line, which is saying something given it lost All-Americans Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt, not to mention the valuable contributions of Bill Nagy.

Coach Bret Bielema has been pleased with Ryan Groy stepping in for Peter Konz, who has missed time with a sprained ankle. Ricky Wagner has moved to left tackle, and Rob Havenstein has been getting plenty of reps with the ones at right tackle. Travis Frederick, who redshirted last fall, is back in the mix at left guard, while Bielema has been impressed with the work of right guard Kevin Zeitler.

After two terrific years from Scott Tolzien, Jon Budmayr is getting his shot at quarterback. Making spring camp more challenging is the collection of inexperienced receivers.

Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst likes to remind anyone who asks that it is still April. "Jon has an understanding of what we are doing," says Chryst. "He's going to make mistakes. He's needs to learn from those mistakes and keep pushing forward."

While Budmayr's skill set might be a bit different from his predecessor, there are important similarities that Chryst appreciates, starting with how Budmayr took note of how Tolzien carried himself. "It is not what was said as much as it was just how Scotty went about his business," Chryst said. "He (Budmayr) did a great job of truly taking it all in.  

"A lot of those things were the things Scott controlled. The things he did going into each practice and each season. They are the same type of guys, so I think it fits Jon like it did Scotty."

The receivers are young, so maybe on Saturday you will enjoy seeing players such as Isaiah Williams, Kenzel Doe, Chase Hammond and Marquis Mason.

While Nick Toon works his way back from foot surgery, the veteran of the group is Jared Abbrederis. Receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander says the sophomore has developed as a leader, but admits there is bit of a problem.

"He's got a little farmer in him," Alexander says with a smile. "He likes to get the guys up at 6 a.m. Some of these guys are city guys. They don't get up that early."

The Badgers likely will have good depth at tight end. Special mention to Brian Wozniak, who earlier in camp suffered a knee injury that figured to keep him out four to six weeks, but he returned a week later.    

In fall camp last August, Wozniak hurt his shoulder and missed half the season. He has had enough bad luck.

On defense, gone is Lott IMPACT Trophy winner and likely first-round NFL draft pick J.J. Watt. Co-Defensive Coordinator Charlie Partridge isn't worried about any returning players being the next Watt.

"Pat Butrym needs to be the best Pat Butrym he can be, and on down the line. To replace the amount of production J.J. gave us, everybody has to step up."

As was written in this space last week, there could be some nice depth at linebacker. No doubt LB coach Dave Huxtable is eager to see how Marcus Trotter, Josh Harrison and Cameron Ontko, among others, perform in more of a game-like setting.

Co-Defensive Coordinator Chris Ash is quick to say that while he likes much of the what the defensive backs have done this spring, there is still is plenty of work to do.  An encouraging sign for Ash is the development of senior cornerback Devin Smith.

"I've told him this--I am not saying anything that is a secret," says Ash "Last spring he (Smith) just didn't compete. He's a totally different person now."

And this is a different team. Yes, the Badgers won the Big Ten title and made a trip to the Rose Bowl, but for fans, Saturday marks the beginning of the 2011 season.

Don't make too much of what you see this Saturday, but consider it a little preview of some of the newer faces you could be seeing much more of beginning Thursday night, Sept. 1, when the UNLV Rebels come to town.

Badgers start NHL playoffs with a bang

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Two days into the NHL playoffs and the impact of Wisconsin men's hockey alumni is being felt. Big time.

To start, 11 former Badgers are skating in the playoffs, the most of any college team in the nation.

There have been eight games played and 27 goals scored thus far. Badgers account for 14.8 percent of the goals, 20 percent of the first goals and 20 percent of the game-winning goals, including 50 percent of the overtime game-winning goals. Granted there isn't a large sample of yet, but former Badger names can be heard in five of the eight series and on eight of the 16 teams involved in the playoffs.

What they are saying

Wisconsin's doubles pair of senior Jessica Seyferth and sophomore Hannah Berner currently boasts a 15-4 overall record this season, including undefeated marks at No. 1 doubles (1-0) and No. 3 doubles (9-0). The Badger Herald looked at the duo's success. Read the full story below. 

Badger Herald: After struggling last year, Seyferth, Berner click (April 12, 2011)

Badger Herald looks at rookie progression

The Badger Herald caught up with head coach Greg Van Emburgh and freshman Fredrik Ask to discuss the UW men's tennis team's young players and the progress they have made so far this season. Read the whole article below.

Badger Herald: Youthful Badgers show promise (April 13, 2011)

The Voice: Easy to enjoy UW's success with teams like this

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgSome random thoughts while my wife Linda keeps asking me "What are you doing here? Isn't there a road game coming up? Get out of the house already!"

Not a bad time to be a Badgers fan, eh? The football team returns to the Rose Bowl, the men's basketball team surprises again with a strong season, which included a run to the Sweet 16, while the women's hockey team under the direction of Mark Johnson wins yet another national championship.

Of course, there have been other exceptional performances on campus, but those three come to mind right away.

All of this happens while it appears an already understaffed NCAA infractions committee has work that keeps piling up. High-profile headaches at Tennessee and Ohio State and the ongoing questions at Auburn have some wondering what is next.  

My personal philosophy on these matters is simple -- when it happens to your school, it's a witch hunt. When it happens to another school, especially a rival, the defendant usually is considered guilty until proven innocent.

Easy as it can be to do otherwise, I try to refrain from laughing too hard when the other guy gets the NCAA inquiry. Over the years, Wisconsin has had a few of those unpleasant experiences. Fortunately, it has been awhile.

The stories coming out these days should make Badger fans feel grateful that success is coming while the teams follow the rules. I'm not claiming Wisconsin is perfect, but I do believe there is a commitment to doing things the right way around here, and that commitment is much more than lip service.

Will the Badgers win a national title in football or basketball? Who knows? But I will take what they are doing right now, and how they are going about their business. To me, that beats winning even bigger, only to have it all questioned by NCAA violations.

Onto football, and while spring drills roll on, a few younger players appear to be taking advantage of increased repetitions. As linebackers Chris Borland and Ethan Armstrong work their way back from injuries, redshirt freshman Marcus Trotter's play at mike backer has been encouraging. Maybe in a perfect world, Borland and Armstrong are out there as well, but Trotter could very well be improving the depth of the linebacking corps.

Keeping in mind the old saying that you never can have too many tailbacks, keep the name Jeff Lewis in mind. Since last fall, coach Bret Bielema has been intrigued with the redshirt freshman from Brookfield. So far this spring Lewis, while still learning the position, is showing why.

Meanwhile, fifth-year senior Zach Brown also is battling for playing time behind regulars Montee Ball and James White. This fall, the highly-touted back Melvin Gordon joins the party.  
Like I said, you never can have enough tailbacks.  

Finally, next Tuesday, Bo Ryan's basketball team has its annual postseason reception at the Kohl Center. There is much to celebrate, including a good NCAA tournament run, a 25-win season and a perfect home record.  

There are many other notable statistics, but one of the better assists I have seen lately came from Mike Bruesewitz, who last week had teammate Jon Leuer shave the Bruiser's long red hair to raise money to fight multiple sclerosis. So far, Mike's buzz cut has helped generate more than $5,000 for the Wisconsin Chapter of the National MS Society.

And you thought that 3-pointer he hit in the Kansas State game was big. It is just another reason why this team is easy to like.
UW athletic director Barry Alvarez had the ideal parting gift for his deputy.

"Be yourself,'' Alvarez told Shawn Eichorst. "You're ready. You can do it.''

That endorsement meant everything to the 44-year-old Eichorst, who has left the Badgers to become the new athletic director of the University of Miami Hurricanes.

"There were a few people who I trust and respect,'' Eichorst said, "and have been mentors of mine who suggested that it would be a good fit and the timing was right.''

One of those mentors was South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier, with whom Eichorst had a strong working relationship during his years as a senior associate athletic director in Columbia.

Obviously another mentor was Alvarez, the former Badger football coach who, of course, has been a long-time favorite of Miami president Donna Shalala, the former UW chancellor.

Eichorst joins Jamie Pollard, another former Alvarez deputy, who has moved on to run his own athletic department. Pollard is the AD at Iowa State. What has Eichorst taken from Alvarez?

"One of the things I've learned from Barry,'' Eichorst said, "is doing a real good job hiring good people who are in it for the right reasons and then allowing them the room to do their job.

"You watch Barry and he's got that natural ability to lead. He's been a good role model that way.  He also has that 'Don't Flinch' mentality, and when you're around him, it rubs off a little bit.

"That doesn't mean you're not caring about every situation that comes across your desk, but you're trying to put it in proper perspective and manage that way instead of managing under fire.''

It's about having a plan, Eichorst said, echoing Alvarez again.

"I've felt like I've been ready over the last four to five years,'' he said of timetable on becoming a BCS athletic director. "But I've always paid attention to the job that I've had and worked hard at that.''

Do that, Eichorst constantly reminded himself, and everything else would take care of itself.

"It's kind of a bittersweet deal,'' Eichorst said of leaving the UW athletic department. "When you see people who are truly happy for other people's success, you know it's a special place.''

Asked if he would be interested in talking to Alvarez about arranging a home-and-home football series between the Badgers and the Hurricanes, Eichorst said, "Absolutely. I'd love to do that.''

McIntosh honored by Big Ten Network's Diamond Report

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Wisconsin sophomore pitcher Meghan McIntosh's 13-strikeout, shutout performance against North Dakota in game two of a doubleheader on Thursday was named the No. 4 Play of the Week on the Big Ten Network's Diamond Report, which originally aired on Sunday.

In throwing the first shutout of her career, McIntosh yielded just six hits and walked none in her sixth complete game of the year. The Sierra Vista, Ariz., native recorded a strikeout in every inning, struck out the side in the second and fanned two batters each in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

McIntosh's 13 strikeouts are the most for a Badger pitcher since Letty Olivarez tied a school record with 17 against Minnesota on May 12, 2010.

Coupled with the Badgers' 5-0 win in game one of the doubleheader, Wisconsin recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time since April 26 and April 28 of 2006. In addition, in the doubleheader McIntosh and Cassandra Darrah combined to throw 21 strikeouts while issuing zero walks and giving up just eight hits in 14 innings of work.

Doubleheader sweep a team effort

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IMG_1731_BLOG_1.jpgIn today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's doubleheader sweep over North Dakota on Thursday night. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What an exciting night for the Badgers. We beat North Dakota 5-0 and 7-0. Freshman pitcher Cassandra Darrah set the tone in the first game pitching a two-hit shutout for her 11th win this season. Cass has thrown some great games against tough competition lately; she needed a good "W" to get some momentum. Shannel Blackshear's monster three-run home run in the sixth inning led the offense.

Sophomore pitcher Meghan McIntosh had the best game of her career, striking out 13 hitters in game two. She worked ahead, trusted her pitches and looked relaxed. Great games are even more meaningful when they come after tough losses. Meg struggled in her last two outings, so to see her respond and bounce back last night was a huge character builder.

Freshman Stephanie Peace had a huge three-run homer to lead the offensive attack in the second game, with key contributions off the bench from Kelsey Horton, Ashley Hanewich and Abby Gregory. Kelsey, Ashley and Abby were a combined 3-3, with a walk, two runs scored and two RBIs. That's great depth!

Lucas at Large: Stave working to hit the right notes

Joel Stave knew that the bar would be raised competitively when he graduated from Whitnall High School in December and enrolled for the second semester of classes at the UW.

Had he stayed at Whitnall through the spring, Stave might have continued to compete on the track and field team as a high jumper. As a junior, he qualified for the Wisconsin state meet.

But he opted instead to get a jump-start on his education with the Badgers.

That has entailed measuring up on the field and in the classroom for the 6-foot-5, 204-pound Stave, who's built along the lines of Dwight Stones, a former world record-holder in the high jump.

"I figured it was a really good opportunity for me to learn and get ahead of the game as far as school and football,'' said Stave, who has been getting reps as a backup to the backup quarterback.

Jon Budmayr, who will be a redshirt sophomore, has been working exclusively with the No. 1 offense throughout spring practice. Budmayr was Scott Tolzien's backup last season.

Joel StaveCurt Phillips, a redshirt junior, has been limited. Phillips is still rehabbing from two ACL surgeries within the last year. In scrimmages, redshirt freshman Joe Brennan has been with the No. 2 unit.

Stave has taken turns with both the No. 2 and No. 3 offense, mostly the latter. "It's a big step up as far as the speed of the game and everything,'' he said. "But I think I'm adjusting pretty well.''

Because of his inexperience with the system, Stave noted that the other quarterbacks "have helped out a lot when I don't understand a route or a signal - they've been there to straighten me out.''

UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst has also tried to ease the transition to college football. "He breaks down the reads and makes it a lot easier,'' Stave said. "He helps speed up how you play.''

As a high school senior, Stave threw for 2,635 yards and 22 touchdowns. He had six games of 250-plus yards through the air, including a career-high 416 yards (23-of-31) against St. Thomas More.

Stave accounted for 5,017 passing yards as a two-year starter for Whitnall with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 40-to-8. Despite the big numbers, it didn't add up to much recruiting traffic.

The Badgers originally targeted Stave as a preferred walk-on but, eventually, a tender opened up for Stave, whose only other offer came from Western Michigan.

"I ended up not having a lot of options,'' he said. "But I've always wanted to come here. I've always wanted to be a Badger. I felt like I could play in the Big Ten and I wanted to give it a shot.

"I had always dreamed of playing college football. But I didn't go to a whole lot of camps the summer after my sophomore year. I did after my junior year and I got a lot of good feedback.''

That's when he first realized that he could play at this level of competition. His prep coach, Rob Leboeuf, has said that Stave through hard work has raised the bar of excellence at Whitnall.

He also once described Stave as "a raw kid that could throw the ball a country mile.''

That's what the Badgers have seen at times this spring.

Stave has not decided yet if he will return home to Greenfield for his high school prom.

"I do miss walking around the hallways with all my buddies,'' he admitted. "But I only live about an hour and 15 minutes away so I can still get back on weekends now and again.''

Stave is planning on majoring in engineering at Wisconsin. "I know it would be quite a workload,'' he said. "But we'll start with that and see where it takes me.''

He has taken that same approach with his football, and his music. Stave is very accomplished at the piano. "My mom got me started playing when I was in the first or second grade,'' he said.

Although he can handle a harmonica - and has taught himself how to play the guitar - his first love would be the piano. He played in a couple of high school talent shows. "I'm not bad,'' he said.

 Among his favorite selections is "Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me),'' which earned Train a Grammy.

Earlier this semester, Stave and his teammates were at reception hosted by UW chancellor Biddy Martin, who asked if anyone knew how to play the piano. "A couple of the guys knew I did and volunteered me,'' Stave said. "So I played a couple of songs.''

Playing the piano has served as an escape for Stave, too.  "I found a piano in the basement of the Regent where I'm living,'' he said. "Sometimes when I'm looking for something to do, I'll go down there and play for an hour or so. It's very relaxing.''

Reading defenses, not music, is still his priority, though.

"I've learned a lot already and there's a lot of room to get better,'' he said.

The Voice: NCAA tourney provides another fantastic ride

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgWith the conclusion of perhaps the craziest NCAA basketball tournament in history, this might be a good time to step back and look at the state of the game. Is it really watered down, as many observers believe? Are there too many teams? Could we expand again soon?

If Bo Ryan had his way, there would be at least 96 teams in the field. Agree or disagree, at least the opinion comes from a coach whose team has made the tournament each of his 10 years as the Badgers' head man, and 13 straight seasons overall.  

It turns out the 68-team field worked pretty well, despite the gripes of some in the basketball world. VCU, which had to play an extra game to reach Houston, entertained fans across the country, and it helped make Rams Coach Shaka Smart, a Fitchburg, Wis., native, a household name.

I tend to doubt whether Bo will get his wish anytime soon, but if and when it happens, my guess is the tournament will continue to thrive.

Maybe college basketball isn't quite as good as it was before the "one and done" player became so prevalent, but for my money the theater was hard to beat, and I say that after watching UConn's 53-41 slugfest against Butler.

Since that was the title game, no doubt many will cry about how bad the college game has become, but keep in mind the millionaires in the NBA also have struggled on the biggest stage.

In Game 7 of last summer's NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics, Kobe Bryant missed 18 of his 24 shots, including every one of his six three-point attempts. The Lakers won the game despite shooting 32 percent from the floor. And that game was not played in a dome.

When I think of this year's NCAA tournament, a number of moments come to mind, including the runs of VCU and Butler.  

Morehead State knocking out Louisville on a dramatic late-game shot is what the song One Shining Moment is all about. San Diego State, led by former Michigan coach Steve Fisher, became a player with a run to the Sweet 16. It got there after a grueling double-overtime victory against Temple.

While he did not have his best game in New Orleans, it was fun seeing BYU's Jimmer Fredette try to work his magic one more time against Florida. It was not to be, but his offensive game was a treat to watch.

Seeing the Badgers advance to the Big Easy was gratifying, especially considering they were a popular pick to be knocked out in the first round. The third round match with Kansas State was one of the better Wisconsin games I have seen in a long time (not counting the win against Ohio State in February).

Of course we can say the college game is not quite as strong as the good old days, when players hung around campus a little longer. That will happen when stars such as Derek Rose of the Chicago Bulls, who may very well be the NBA's MVP, would have been a senior at Memphis.  

I still say the college game remains pretty healthy, and if nothing else, the early entries to the NBA have given many more teams a fighting chance. That includes Wisconsin. Yes, the Badgers have been a very strong program, but it remains an uphill battle to reach the level of Duke, North Carolina, UConn, Kansas, etc.  

That does not mean that the Badgers can't win big. On the contrary, the state of today's game gives them, not to mention the Butlers and the VCUs of the world, a legitimate shot.  Again this year, Wisconsin demonstrated that when it plays well, it can play with the very best.

Is that so bad? Certainly there are those who enjoy always having a Goliath, a New York Yankees type of program if you will. In college basketball, some schools have more resources and much bigger budgets than others, but as we have seen in the tournament, the competition appears to be more wide open than ever.

If the powers that be come up with a way to keep college basketball players in school for at least two years, so be it. If not, the game will survive.  

This year's NCAA tournament is just further proof positive. To me, even with the final act being less than scintillating, the tourney itself remains the best three weeks in sports.

Lucas at Large: Swan returns to Badger sidelines

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Two years ago, Luke Swan was a cast member of a reality-based cable series hosted by Michael Irvin, the Hall of Fame wide receiver known to his Dallas Cowboys teammates as the "Playmaker."

That was the last time Swan, a former Badger walk-on and team captain, was on a football field until this spring when he joined the UW coaching staff as an offensive graduate assistant coach.

What prompted him to leave the business world - where he was working for M3 Insurance - for a low-paying internship with few or no guarantees of future employment? What brought him back?

 "It's been something that I've known since I was a player,'' said Swan, the 26-year-old Fennimore native. "I've had this desire to stay with football. It's my passion. I love it.''

But it wasn't as easy as that.

Some things had to fall into place.

The Badgers had an opening for a grad assistant when Mark Haering returned to Colorado. Haering was an anomaly. He was in his 40s and had been head high school coach in Pueblo for 12 years.

Ben Strickland, meanwhile, is beginning his second year as a GA on defense. Strickland and Swan are not strangers. They were former walk-ons at Wisconsin, and captains on the 2007 team.

The opportunity for Swan to continue his education in the UW graduate school with an eye on athletic administration was certainly appealing. But he still had a tough decision to make.

"It's something I definitely took very seriously,'' he said. "Not making the kind of money you'd make, being newly married and having just bought a condo, I took two or three weeks to think through it.  My wife Ashley is working full-time and that definitely helps. She's definitely making a commitment.''

In the end, he had to follow his heart. "Knowing that I wanted to do something in my life that I'm passionate about,'' Swan said. "I enjoy the interaction with athletes and this period of four or five years (in college) is such a good growing time in their life to get off on the right path.

"That really kind of drew me towards coaching - along with the excitement of football. It's what I know. It's what I've done. And it's what I enjoy. I'll be starting by working with the wide receivers. But I'm hoping to get a broad scope of everything and experience multiple facets of the offense.''

There was some understandable anxiety in the transition.

"The first couple of days of practice I felt like a freshman just kind of figuring out my role and how to be good at what I do on the practice field,'' Swan said. "Relationships are completely different. As a coach, it's much more about seeing the big picture, too, and how everything fits together.''

As a gritty UW wide receiver, Swan showed the ability to catch the ball in a crowd and over the middle. As a junior, he had 35 receptions and five touchdowns. As a senior, he had 25 catches through the first six games before a severe hamstring injury sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Swan had a try-out with the Kansas City Chiefs. But his best shot at making an NFL roster came through his participation on "4th and Long'' - which aired on the Spike network in the spring of 2009.

Irvin, the focal point, was flanked by his assistants, Bill Bates and Joe Avezzano. Swan was one of 12 prospects vying for a spot on the roster of the Dallas Cowboys. It was all filmed in the Cotton Bowl.

The premise: six receivers challenging six defensive backs in a variety of drills and competitions. One player was cut every show. Swan was cut the fourth week after sustaining another leg injury.

What did he take away from the experience?

"I learned little things from each of the different coaches,'' said Swan, noting that Jerry Rice was among the guest counselors. "He gave some insights on the receiver position that were unique.''

In general, Swan observed how Irvin, Bates and Avezzano meshed and handled the different personalities. In turn, he asked himself, "How would I have handled that coaching situation?''

What it did was expand his frame of reference in football. And now he's hoping to widen that picture for others. "It's absolutely exciting,'' Swan said, "to find an occupation - something you have a passion for - that can make a difference in somebody else's life.'' As it has his.

Getting that first Big Ten win

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In this week's softball blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about how the team split with Michigan State to win its first Big Ten game of the season. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What a great win yesterday for the Badgers at Michigan State! There was a lot of tenacity and toughness displayed by Wisconsin. I am so proud of this group of young women for their determination and competitiveness. They want to win, and we're teaching them how to create momentum.

On Saturday, we lost big and only had one hit. Our staff met, and we focused on keeping things positive and light with the team. We've had a lot of teachable moments this year. Each mental error is an opportunity to teach the game, and increase our team's softball IQ so we can become better, smarter athletes.

We were losing 3-0 early at Michigan State yesterday when the weather got worse, and we were delayed one hour and 34 minutes due to rain and hail. When the game resumed, Shannel Blackshear hit a home run to start the rally. Amanda Najdek did a great job on the mound keeping Michigan State off balance.

We won 10-4 using a lot of creative coaching to bunt, steal and pressure our way back into the game. It's always fun to beat a conference opponent when you're on the road. Our team certainly loves those dramatic, come-from-behind victories this year. We're 17-13 right now after our first 30 games. It's amazing that we've only had two home games in our first 30 contests. We're looking forward to a long homestand this week!