UW Health Sports Medicine 

Position Preview: Defenders

In the second installment of a four-part series previewing the Wisconsin women's soccer team's roster, head coach Paula Wilkins breaks down the Badgers' defenders.

The Badgers return the core of their defensive unit that was the stingiest in all of the Big Ten last season.

For the season, the Badgers led the league by yielding just 11 goals overall and 0.52 goals per game. The squad also posted 12 shutouts on the year to tie for the conference lead.

In addition, including overtime periods, the Badgers did not give up a goal in span that lasted nearly 930 minutes last season from Sept. 5 to Oct. 15. This snapped the previous record set by the 1985 team for most minutes without allowing a goal.

Head coach Paula Wilkins is relying on veteran leadership in 2011 to produce similar results, starting with senior Meghan Flannery, who was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season.

"We have Meghan Flannery returning who is an All-Big Ten player and will anchor the back," Wilkins said. "She's been great in the transition from midfielder to outside-back to center-back. She's a good leader and has good field vision."

Also part of the defensive unit are juniors Lindsey Johnson and Joana Bielefeld and sophomore Catie Sessions. Johnson, who was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team in 2009, started all 20 games a year ago, while Bielefeld played in 14 contests after transferring in from Ohio University. Sessions played in 19 games and, like Johnson, earned a spot on the All-Freshman squad.

"Lindsey Johnson and Catie Sessions were both All-Big Ten freshmen at one point. They're great attacking defenders with great mentality to get forward," Wilkins added. "They'll be generating a lot of our offense there.

"Joana Bielefeld has had experience there. She'll play essentially in the back or outside wide. She had great experience in the spring coming from Ohio University."

A pair of youngsters also could play prominently in the defense, including a member of the Badgers' freshman class.

"Lauren Reid is a young freshman who has come in and shown promise," Wilkins said. "Being able to play off the left side, she's very technical and has a really good engine. I think she's going to be another good attacking back in the style that we like to play with.

"Ali Heller, who is coming back slowly from injury, will probably play a role in one of those spots as the season wears on. We're hoping to get her back in the mix very quickly."

With these pieces in place, the defensive unit looks to be a definite strength going into the new season.