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November 2012 Archives

Getting to know the Badgers: Macy Oswald

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Meet one of the eight new members of the Wisconsin softball team

Meet freshman Badger Macy Oswald! She is from Caseyville, Ill., and attended O'Fallon Township High School. The righty batter was a four-year letterwinner and earned Best Defense all four years. She was named MVP, first-team all-conference, first-team all-area, St. Louis All-Metro, first-team Chicago Tribune All-State and second -team all-state her senior year.

During her senior year, she earned the Best Offense Award. She was named O'Fallon Township Female Athlete of the year (2011-2012) as well as Player of the Week for ESPN Rise Midwest.

She had 12 home runs her junior year, as O'Fallon Township won the 2011 Southwest Conference Championship and Regional Southwest Conference Championship. Oswald's head coach was Kate Walsh.

She was also a four-year letterwinner in volleyball and a member of SADD (students against destructive decisions) and PWP (players with a passion).

Her parents are Michael and Holly Oswald, and she has one younger sister, Mia. Her father, Michael, was a catcher at Chowan College. She enjoys playing volleyball, working out and sketching nature scenes. Her major is currently undecided.

We took a little time for some Q&A with Macy:

Q: Who or what got you started in softball?
A: My dad, he played baseball in college

Q: At what age did you start playing softball?
A: I was nine years old

Q: If you didn't play softball, which sport would you play?
A: Volleyball. I was the libero (defensive specialist) at my high school. I played volleyball from seventh grade until my senior year.

Q: What is your dream job?
A: Working with future professional athletes

Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: Warrior

Q: Who is your favorite athlete/athletic team?
A: St. Louis Cardinals

Q: Describe your dream vacation
A:.Going to Hawaii

Q: What is your favorite sports/softball memory?
A:  My favorite memory would have to be when my high school softball team won regionals four years in a row.

Q: Do you have any pump up or pre-game music or rituals?
A:  Listen to my playlist of pump up jams.

Q: What is the best part of playing softball at Wisconsin?
A: Putting on the big W and being part of something bigger than myself.

Q: Where is your favorite spot on campus?
A: The Lakeshore path. It's a great place to go for a run.

Q: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
A: Cookies and Cream

Q: What is your favorite Crayola crayon color?
A: Teal

Q: What TV show do you wish you could be in?
A: Gossip Girl

Q: If you could be any person for a day, who would you be?
A: Blake Lively

Q: If you were stranded on an island and could only have three items with you, what would they be?
A: My best friend, matches and a boat...

Four C's: Character, commitment, confidence and composure

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Head coach Yvette Healy writes about celebrating Thanksgiving and the four C's of leadership in this week's Badger Blog. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. There was a lot of cooking in the Healy house the last few weeks. We had the team over for a party a week ago. My husband Shawn and I had fun cooking beef sandwiches and baked pasta for the team and our staff. My four year old daughter Grace got to choose dessert, so we made waffle cone sundae's with the team. 

We had a house full of friends come up for the Ohio State football game right after that. It was our second tough overtime game this fall. 

Then we hosted Thanksgiving with my family in Madison. Grace and I made a few homemade apple pies and gingerbread cake pops ... both super messy, but fun. Shawn grilled a Cajun turkey outside and I did a turkey and stuffing in the oven. It was sunny and 60 all week for Thanksgiving. We had a blast playing football in the backyard while we cooked. I even got the iPad out and videotaped my nieces and nephews swings with our new Dartfish video analysis app.

We spend the rest of the weekend watching sports, and getting ready for the Holidays. We even did Christmas cookies with Santa on Sunday. We got a great photo with Santa and our daughters Maeve, who's five months old already, and Grace, who's four years old.

We leave this week for our NFCA coach's convention in Orlando, Fla. We're all looking forward to getting some new ideas and drills while finding time to catch up and connect with friends and mentors. Next week will be our last week to workout with our team before they start to prepare for finals, and then its Christmas break. 

We had a short chalk talk on leadership yesterday. Jeff Jansen has a ton of great information that we use on team leadership. Wisconsin softball has made great strides the last few years regarding team commitment. I see our athletes dedicating themselves to the team and working extremely hard, especially in the weight room. We're stronger and more fit than ever before. Working hard is a great first step in developing leadership. We spent yesterday talking about the next big stride we need to make internally. 

Jeff Jansen talks about the four C's of leadership; Character, Commitment, Confidence and Composure.

We have amazing young women here at the University of Wisconsin. Their character is so impressive, as evidenced by all of the community service and outreach that our student-athletes do. Our commitment to hard work has gone up exponentially too. 

Now the jump we need to see revolves around confidence and composure. Our squad has been young the last few years, and we've gone through some growing pains. With age and experience, needs to come more confidence and composure. We challenged our squad to focus on accountability and ownership yesterday. 

This season could be a memorable one for the entire Badger softball family if we can translate our character and commitment into confidence and composure as we battle adversity and injuries, face a tough schedule and fight for a Big Ten championship! 

The Voice: No need for apologies as Badgers chase prize

In sports, I find the term "In the moment" to be perhaps the most appropriate three words to describe the emotions, the reactions, and yes, the overreactions of those who love to watch their favorite team.

Since I get paid to observe sporting events (I'm guessing you might use the term "stealing"), I believe I have at least some responsibility to take a look at the bigger picture. Some might call it spin control. Hopefully some of you will understand the point of today's column. Here goes:

In this strangest of Big Ten football seasons, the Badgers, with a 4-4 conference record, will play Nebraska Saturday night for a trip to the Rose Bowl. Win, and Bret Bielema's team will make school history with a third-straight trip to Pasadena.

Given the fact that Wisconsin has the sixth-best record in league play, we all know how some will choose to view the current state of affairs. But let us also remember that the Badgers did not make the rules, which were in place before the season began. Ohio State and Penn State broke the rules and paid for it with NCAA sanctions, including being ineligible for postseason play. 

Is this ideal for the Big Ten? Of course not. What is the best way to avoid this situation in the future? Following NCAA rules and obeying the laws of society would be a good place to start.

To be clear, this is no reflection on the current players and coaches at Ohio State and Penn State. Those two teams put together excellent seasons and should be congratulated for their efforts. Urban Meyer's bunch ran the table, and Bill O'Brien gets my vote for national coach of the year. There are many young men in both programs who represent all that is good about the game. But everyone knew the drill back in July. The Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions would get 12 games. That's it.

Are the Badgers happy about being the third-place team in the Leaders Division? No, but they need not apologize for having the chance to win a league title. In a perfect world, they would have won the division outright. The last time I checked, the world is far from perfect.

Now to the matter of close games, and how the Badgers have struggled mightily the last two seasons.

Note the words "last two seasons." To hear some talk about it, you would think Bret Bielema has never won a close game in his seven years as the Badgers' head man.

Here are the facts. To date, Bielema's overall record in one-score games is 21-15. In Barry Alvarez's final seven years as the Badgers coach, Wisconsin was 20-17 in one-score games.

Breaking it down to include the schedule a school cannot control -- meaning the Big Ten slate plus a bowl game -- Bielema is 12-14. Alvarez was 14-15. Not exactly a ton of difference.

These numbers are not meant to be a Bret vs. Barry debate. I use these numbers of emphasize one of Alvarez's favorite sayings "It is hard to win." A simple, but very accurate statement.

In a close game, it is only natural to second guess any decision that does not work. Coaches sign up for that stuff. On the other hand, sometimes there is a bad bounce, a tough official's call (or non-call), or perhaps a perfectly designed play that results in a dropped pass, a bad throw, or maybe the guy on the other team just made a great play.

Lately, maybe it is a little bit of everything. I just know in 2009 and 2010, the Badgers were 8-2 in one-score games (5-2 in Big Ten games plus the bowls), so I am pretty sure the current coach knows what it takes to win the nail-biters. 

One other thing. While the close losses have outnumbered the close wins, especially in the last two years, the Badgers did snag a rather significant down-to-the-wire tilt last year. For their efforts, they collected a very pretty trophy and a big, fat Big Ten championship ring.

The fact remains that despite the recent troubles, another trophy and more fat rings remain in play.

The Voice: With much to play for, Badgers won't rest

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgIn sports, one can argue that each team has its own identity and its own set of challenges, but with Bret Bielema's football program, a common theme has been the ability to get off the canvas after a hard-to-take loss.

As Wisconsin heads to Happy Valley this week, that theme is back in play.

Do they always win the week following a loss? No, but it is fair to suggest that the Badgers have not simply rolled over, the victim of an emotional hangover from the previous game.

This season has offered some examples. After losing to a better-than-expected Oregon State team in September, the Badgers did struggle, but managed to hang on against Utah State (9-2 overall, 5-0 in the WAC). Maybe not a very pretty game, but I don't think it was because of lack of effort. Remember there was an assistant coaching change that week and a quarterback change that night.

Better performances happened after losses to Nebraska and Michigan State, when the Badgers outscored Illinois and Indiana 93-28.

Remember, many were jumping on the Hoosiers' bandwagon, and there were some who picked Indiana to win and stay alive in the Rose Bowl race. It didn't happen.

Clearly, in this "bounce back" game, the caliber of opponent is better.

Given the NCAA sanctions and player departures, Penn State has played extremely well. While the Thanksgiving holiday might have some wondering about the size of the crowd this Saturday, I will go ahead and assume that Beaver Stadium will be loud. Very, very loud.

Remember this is Penn State's final game of the season, and the final game period for the seniors. As for the Badgers, after Saturday they have two games remaining.

A popular question is whether Bielema will rest some players for next week's Big Ten championship game. If this is the NFL, perhaps he does to keep his group fresh for the playoffs.

This isn't the NFL, and the Badgers seem eager to get the winning feeling back as soon as possible. In addition, Saturday's game can be about bowl positioning. Naturally, they have their eyes on Pasadena. However, if that does not happen, you want to be as high in the bowl pecking order as possible.

At the moment, bowls not named the Rose that appear to be the most in play are the Outback Bowl in Tampa, the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, or perhaps the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. The Badgers need to win this week to keep close with Northwestern. If Wisconsin falls two games behind the Wildcats in the loss column, then the Gator Bowl likely is the best option (other than the Rose Bowl, of course).

Does this make sense?

If it is confusing, don't worry about it. Spend any length of time around this football team and you will realize that, as long as they are going to keep score, the Badgers just want to win a game -- and Saturday would be a big one.

It is difficult to measure how many points you get for being emotionally ready. I don't know who will win the game, but I am confident that the visiting team, coming off a tough loss yet already assured of a trip to Indianapolis next week, will bring all they have to State College.

We have seen nothing to suggest otherwise.

Three keys for Wisconsin vs. Florida

Defending the 3-point line
Wednesday night's top-25 match-up between Wisconsin and Florida is a case of strength vs. strength. Last season the Gators led the NCAA in made 3-pointers per game with an average of 9.5 per outing and shooting at rate of 38 percent. Florida's backcourt of Kenny Boyton (266) and Mike Rosario (187) have made a combined 453 3-pointers in their careers. To put that into perspective, UW's active leader in made triples is Ben Brust... with 62.

The good news is, Wisconsin ranked second in all of the NCAA in fewest 3-pointers allowed a year ago, surrendering just 3.6 per game and allowing opponents to made just 29 percent (11th in the country). In fact, only once did a UW opponent make at least nine 3-pointers in a game last season, and that was Iowa with 10.

Putting up a fence along the perimeter is pivotal vs. the Gators.

Two of the best BIG shooters
A one-on-one match-up to keep an eye on in this game is the battle between Florida's 6-foot-10 forward Erik Murphy and the Badgers' 6-foot-10 forward Jared Berggren. What you'll be watching is two of the best big-man shooters in all of college basketball.

Among players 6-foot-10 or taller, Murphy and Berggren finished first and third, respectively in made 3-pointers last season. Murphy knocked down 59-of-140 shots from downtown and Berggren connected on 42-of-121.

Bombs away.

Tempo, tempo, tempo
Wednesday night's game figures to be a baptism by fire for Wisconsin's young backcourt. Florida is a team conditioned on pressure defense and forcing turnovers. And after seeing the cramped nature of the O'Connell Center (the O-Dome), I can understand why. The sidelines are so close to the court, they feel like extra defenders.

The Gators - who forced 19 turnovers in their season opener - forced 10 or more turnovers in 29 of their 37 games a year ago. In recent memory, protecting the ball has been a major strength of the Wisconsin program. In fact, over the last three seasons, the Badgers have finished No. 1, No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation in fewest turnovers per game.

But that was the Jordan Taylor era.

Now, redshirt freshman George Marshall and sophomore Treavon Jackson are thrust into the spotlight, and into the blender. How the young guys handle it will be of great interest.

When thinking about the tempo of this game, think about UW's game at North Carolina early in the season a year ago. The Tarheels wanted to play fast and loose and turn it into a high-possession game (at least 140 total possessions). Florida will have similar ambitions.

In Chapel Hill, the Badgers dictated the tempo and kept the game to just 123 total possessions. That kept Wisconsin in it until the end, when UNC pulled out the 60-57 win.

Look for a similar recipe in Gainesville if the Badgers are going to pull off the early-season upset.

Getting to know the Badgers: Ashley Van Zeeland

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She was a member of the state champion team in 2010 and her high school team ranked fifth in the nation her junior year. The righty batter was named to the Wisconsin All-Star team as well as Team Wisconsin after graduation and went on to win the state championship.

She was a three-year letterwinner in volleyball and her volleyball team won the state championship her junior year and placed second during her sophomore year. Ashley was a high school teammate of Maria Van Abel. Her major is business/accounting.

We took a little time for some Q&A with Ashley:

Q: Who or what got you started in softball?
A: My parents got me involved in softball when I was really young, because I would always play softball in my backyard with my brothers.

Q: At what age did you start playing softball?
A: 10

Q: If you didn't play softball, which sport would you play?
A: Volleyball

Q: What is your dream job?
A: Professional athlete

Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: Benchwarmers

Q: Who is your favorite athlete/athletic team?
A: Donald Drive/Green Bay Packers

Q: Describe your dream vacation
A: Mexico with my family and cousins.

Q: What is your favorite sports/softball memory?
A: Winning the Super World Series when I was 12 years old.

Q: Do you have any pump up or pre-game music or rituals?
A: Everyone stands in a circle and they each get a chance to do a dance move.

Q: What is the best part of playing softball at Wisconsin?
A: It is a great experience overall and I love the team.

Q: Where is your favorite spot on campus?
A: Camp Randall

Q: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
A: Chocolate chip cookie dough

Q: What is your favorite Crayola crayon color?
A: Pacific blue

Q: What TV show do you wish you could be in?
A: Friends, because they always look like they are having fun and they are hilarious.

Q: If you could be any person for a day, who would you be?
A: Aaron Rodgers, because it would be amazing to be that talented, and he is a great role model.

Q: If you were stranded on an island and could only have three items with you, what would they be?
A: Matches, a tent and a laptop.

The Voice: Most impressive record? That's up for debate

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgFor Badgers fans, it has the makings of a fun debate. What is more impressive, Ron Dayne's NCAA rushing record, or Montee Ball being on the brink of the NCAA record for touchdowns?  

Going into Saturday's final home game against Ohio State, Ball has reached the end zone 77 times. Former Miami University star Travis Prentice holds the mark with 78, set between 1996-99. Along the way this fall, Ball has passed the likes of Mr. Dayne, as well as Cedric Benson and Ricky Williams, among others.

When the senior from Wentzville, Mo., takes the field on Saturday, Ball will be making his 29th career start. In other words, Ball has done most of his work in what amounts to two-and-a-half seasons.

Two years ago, when the Badgers beat then-No. 1 Ohio State, Ball had as many carries as you did -- none. For a brief time, he thought maybe he should move to linebacker.

I think this running back thing has turned out reasonably well for him.

This is an exciting time for Ball and his teammates. If Montee can break the record against the Buckeyes, great. If it happens next week, that's OK too. If it happens, fans and everyone else should appreciate Ball's amazing statistics that he put together in such a short period of time.

However, before I automatically say one NCAA record is better than the other, it is worth reminding ourselves when Ron Dayne was on the field, everyone in the stadium knew who was getting the football.

In the "Dayne Era," the Badgers were very much a running team. In Dayne's years, the most passing yards the Badgers produced was 2,042 in 1997. In Ball's time, the fewest yards through the air was in 2010, when Scott Tolzien and company threw for 2,593.

Last year, with Russell Wilson working his magic, the Badgers passed for 3,280 yards.

My point here is that, by and large, the UW offense has been much more balanced. Maybe not as much this season, but overall, during Montee's time, opposing defenses had to be quite concerned about the passing game.

When Ron played, it seemed as though the Badgers could publically announce -- "Hey (name the opponent), we are giving the ball to Ron, and he's going to run this way. Try to stop him." Probably not quite that simple, but you get the idea.

Also, keep in mind that in several games, Barry Alvarez pulled Dayne fairly early. It is not unreasonable to believe that Dayne could have added another 1,000 to 1,500 yards to his final rushing total.

The bottom line is both records are phenomenal, and both are individual marks requiring special performances from teammates. Dayne and Ball are both quick to credit their offensive lineman and everyone else who helped pave the way.

No doubt Ohio State has other ideas, but in a perfect world for Bucky Backers, Ball breaks the record on a game-winning score. Then UW fans can celebrate and further discuss which record is better.

*   *   *   *

Now a quick note about a couple of early season basketball games where organizers had their hearts in the right place, but maybe needed a little better planning.

Last Friday, Ohio State and Marquette were scheduled to play on the deck of the USS Yorktown in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Because of too much condensation on the floor, the game never started.

Also on Friday, the USS Bataan was the venue for the Florida-Georgetown tilt. They played one half, but because the floor became too slippery, so there was no second half.

Saluting the men and women of the armed forces via some college basketball games is a great idea, but maybe playing the games on big boats should be reconsidered.

Bo Ryan, at one time a sergeant in the United States Army, would love to play a game on an army base.

"Sergeant Ryan could coach the Badgers, against, well, maybe (Duke coach Mike) Krzyzewski," said the Badgers' boss. Krzyzewski was in the U.S. Army from 1969-74. Ryan served two years. I am guessing the number of Division I basketball coaches with military service would make for a short list.

Ryan has no interest in playing on boats, but hopefully at some point Bo can get his wish and honor the brave men and women who serve our country. Just make sure they play the game in a real gym.

An ode to the seniors

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As the saying goes, college is the fastest four years of your life.

Six seniors on the University of Wisconsin women's soccer team had an opportunity to extend their college soccer experience by doing something only 16 other senior classes have accomplished at UW  -- earning a bid to the NCAA Women's Soccer Championships.

After a 12-7-1 mark, the Badger senior class guided the UW to its third NCAA tournament berth in four years. Many of the current seniors experienced Wisconsin's 2009 Sweet 16 run, so the success the team saw this season was unprecedented, and frankly inevitable.

Supported by talented underclassmen, seniors Lauren Gunderson, Olivia Hoff, Erin Jacobsen, Monica Lam-Feist, Lindsey Hamannm Joana Bielefeld and Lindsey Johnson, led a Badgers squad that was arguably one of UW head coach Paula Wilkins' strongest teams to date.

Considering Wilkins has a 21-8 overall record in NCAA tournament games, including a pair of College Cup Semifinal appearances, the fact that she described this year's squad as "special" is no small accolade.

The impact of the senior class rippled through the entire season, like a wave that travels across a large body of water, from one shore to another. It all began with the Badgers' season-opening win over Notre Dame -- the Badgers second win over the Fighting Irish all-time -- which was secured by a game-winning goal from Lam-Feist, a 2012 second team All-Big Ten honoree.  

Gunderson sparked the Badgers' 3-0 start, posting three-consecutive shutouts and finishing with five on the season. Bielefeld and Johnson were the unsung heroes at the midfielder and defender positions, respectively, deflecting nearly every potential scoring opportunity that threatened UW's keepers. Bielefeld also contributed a pair of goals in 2012 -- both were game-winning goals. Hoff, Hamann and Jacobsen all played supporting roles, but were instrumental in their team's development.

The 2012 class was vital in the success of the Wisconsin women's soccer program in more ways than one --  but more importantly, Wilkins' first recruiting class played the biggest role of all in laying the foundation for future classes to come.

Four Nations Update: USA wins gold behind Vetter shutout

After losing 3-1 to Canada in the prelims, Team USA used a shutout to claim the gold medal at the 2012 Four Nations Cup in Finland.

Former Wisconsin netminder Jessie Vetter made 26 saves as Canada outshot the U.S. 26-22.

Hilary Knight scored Team USA's second goal while on the power play halfway through the second period. Current Badger Brianna Decker finished the game with one shot on goal.

Bobbi-Jo Slusar recorded one shot on goal for Team Canada.

In all, seven Badgers returned from Finland with medals. Slusar and Meaghan Mikkelson earned silver with Team Canada, and Knight, Decker, Vetter, Meghan Duggan and Alex Rigsby earned gold with Team USA.

(Pekka Rautiainen photo)

Canada vs Sweden Stats  |  USA vs Finland Stats  |  Live Stats for Saturday's Gold Medal Game

It was a big day for the U.S. and Canadian offenses on Friday at the 2012 Four Nations Cup, as the two teams scored a combined 24 goals.

Former Badger Hilary Knight and current senior Brianna Decker both recorded four goals in Team USA's 15-1 win over Finland. Knight scored one goal on the power play, while Decker scored twice with the man advantage and once while shorthanded. Decker ended up being named Player of the Game for the U.S.

Jessie Vetter earned the start for Friday's contest, as all three U.S. goalies played one game each in the prelims. Vetter made nine saves, with the lone against goal coming off a Finnish power play.

Team Canada skated to a 9-0 victory over Sweden to end round-robin play. Defensemen Meaghan Mikkelson and Bobbi-Jo Slusar both finished the game with a +1 plus/minus rating, and Slusar recorded one shot on goal.

The U.S. and Canada will face off against each other for the gold medal on Saturday at 9 a.m. This will mark the 15th time the two sides have played each other for the gold medal at the Four Nations Cup.

IMG_9162_600.jpgThe Badgers hit the road for the second consecutive week as they continue their postseason in the 2012 NCAA Women's Soccer Championships. Wisconsin is making its third appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last four years, and has been pair against No. 3-seeded UCLA. Join the trip by following this picture timeline, as the team travels to Los Angeles, Calif., in preparation for the opening round of the Big Dance.

Sunday, Nov. 11
12:05 a.m.:
The team hits the hotel once more to shower and, after a couple hours of lay time, heads to the airport to catch a red-eye flight to Minneapolis, then to Chicago. It's been a great trip and we can't wait to see what the spring and fall has in store for us. IMG_9209_airport_sm.jpg

Saturday, Nov. 10 (Gameday)
4:49 p.m.: And the countdown to kick off begins!!!

10:03 a.m.: After gathering in the hotel lobby for breakfast, the team heads to a nearby meeting room to go over film. Never too early (in the morning) or too late (in the week) to polish up on in-game strategies.

Friday, Nov. 9


6:12 p.m.: The Badgers head to Drake Stadium for the team's final organized practice prior to tomorrow's NCAA opening-round match vs. third-seeded UCLA.  

12:54 p.m.: With a little bit of free time to roam, the Badgers hit Santa Monica Pier for a little shopping and sight-seeing. 


10:48 a.m.: Becky McGrath and Marta Wangard lounge in the lobby as the squad awaits the green light on heading out to Santa Monica Pier for the afternoon.


9:42 a.m.: As a result of the change in time zone, the Badgers got two extra hours of sleep before breakfast. The players really appreciated the hotel's buffet, especially "build-your-own-omelet" station.

Thursday, Nov. 8
7:35 p.m.: After nearly nine hours of traveling, the Badgers hit Marina del Ray for a much-needed dinner. The place of choice is C & O Trattoria, which is famous for its never-ending (and absolutely delicious) garlic rolls. 


Four Nations Update: Canada defeats USA, 3-1

(Suomen Jaakiekkoliitto photo)

The U.S. and Canada faced off against each other on Wednesday in the second day of the 2012 Four Nations Cup in Finland.

The game was part of the preliminary round, in which all four teams face each other and the two with the best records play for the gold medal on Saturday.

Five-of-the -seven Badgers skated in the game, as U.S. goaltenders Jessie Vetter and Alex Rigsby did not play.

However, it was a former Badger that got onto the score sheet first. Hilary Knight tallied the first goal of the game in the second period. Knight netted her first goal of the tournament after crashing the net and putting in a rebound from Kendall Coyne.

Though, that would be the last American goal of the day as Canada scored three unanswered goals to take a 3-1 victory.

For Team USA, both Brianna Decker and Meghan Duggan tallied one shot on goal. For Team Canada, Mikkelson recorded two shots on goal, while Bobbi-Jo Slusar finished with a +1 plus/minus rating.

All four teams will have Thursday off from competition before resuming on Friday. Canada takes on Sweden at 8 a.m. (CT) and the U.S. plays against Finland at 11 a.m. (CT). If the U.S. and Canada both win on Friday, they will meet for the gold medal on Friday at 9 a.m. (CT).

Getting to know the Badgers: Caitlyn Warren

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Meet freshman Badger Caitlyn Warren! She is from Naperville, Ill., and attended Naperville North high school. The outfielder was a four-year letterwinner and earned academic all-conference all four years. She was named all-city team her freshman, sophomore and junior year. Her sophomore and junior year she was named Daily Herald all-area honorable mention. The righty batter was named honorable mention all-state as well as DVS all-conference sophomore, junior and senior year.

The Naperville North Huskies won the regional championship during her senior year. She also earned the school record for most walks in a season and made all-area second team during her senior year. Throughout high school she volunteered for S.S. Peter and Paul Religious Education.

Her parents are Tim and Lisa Warren. She has one older brother, Alex, one younger brother, Jared, and two younger sisters, Kelsey and Chloe. She enjoys playing with her dogs. Her major is currently undecided.
We took a little time for some Q&A with Caitlyn:

Q: Who or what got you started in softball?
A: My brothers played baseball and I wanted to be like them, so my mom took me to a tryout for the Naperville Diamonds.

Q: At what age did you start playing softball?
A: 10

Q: If you didn't play softball, which sport would you play?
A: Gymnastics

Q: What is your dream job?
A: Training service dogs to visit children in the hospital.

Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: The Proposal

Q: Who is your favorite athlete/athletic team?
A: The Cubs

Q: Describe your dream vacation
A:.Traveling through Europe

Q: What is your favorite sports/softball memory?
A: Getting to play with my little sister, Kelsey, my last travel season.

Q: Do you have any pump up or pre-game music or rituals?
A: I listen to music super loud and I always get a good luck text from my Mom and Dad right before I warm up.

Q: What is the best part of playing softball at Wisconsin?
A: My teammates.

Q: Where is your favorite spot on campus?
A: The lakeshore path

Q: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
A: Cookies n' Cream

Q: What is your favorite Crayola crayon color?
A: Hot Magenta

Q: What TV show do you wish you could be in?

Q: If you could be any person for a day, who would you be?
A: Beyonce

Q: If you were stranded on an island and could only have three items with you, what would they be?
A: My teddy bear, my phone and my dog, Cali.

The Voice: Options change, but goal does not

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgIt is fairly well documented that November has been a very good month for Bret Bielema and the Wisconsin Badgers. In the last two years, the Badgers are 8-0. Overall under Bielema, Wisconsin is 17-3.

I would guess many things go into the team's success this month. The head coach has talked about the work done by the strength and conditioning staff, led by Ben Herbert.

It seems logical to suggest good fortune with a team's health comes into play. Can your best players stay on the field? If not, can the "next man in" deliver?

Maybe there is a very simple explanation why November has been good for the Badgers. Maybe the answer is the Badgers simply have been pretty good. Good to great players playing their best football late in the season -- a goal for every team at every level.

That is the challenge for this year's group. The 2012 Badgers are a good team, but as yet, not a great team. Injuries have been a factor. The expected return of Rick Wagner at left tackle should boost the offensive line. The bye week should have bought some time for several other players dealing with various bumps and bruises.

Of course, there is the quarterback question. With Joel Stave out for the remainder of the regular season, both Danny O'Brien and Curt Phillips have competed to step in.

At his weekly news conference, Bielema chose not to publicly reveal who will be the starter. Either way, it has the makings of a good story.

O'Brien, the transfer from Maryland who many thought would have the job for the next two seasons, has at times struggled. In fairness to O'Brien, he has been in some difficult spots. He faced an Oregon State defense that is better than many expected. He came in late in the Nebraska game, trying to lead the Badgers on a long drive. Then, in Wisconsin's last game, O'Brien came off the bench in the second half against an excellent Michigan State defense.

The sample size for Phillips is smaller. Against Illinois, he appeared for one series. He entered late in the Minnesota game, and with the outcome decided, the Badgers kept the ball on the ground. In his career, he has thrown 13 passes. Yet he has proven to be tough as nails, coming back from three knee surgeries. He could have given up the game, and people would have understood.

However, Phillips has said he wants no regrets. He doesn't want to be in his late 20s wondering "what if?" He also has little interest in being the cute story of the player who returns from injury who gets to play a few snaps at the end of a blowout. If that is how it turns out, so be it, but to Phillips, he believes he can contribute to a greater degree.

Everybody understands what is on the line this week in Bloomington. The Badgers' defense will face a challenge with Indiana's up tempo offense that features the Big Ten's best passing attack.

The UW offense will look to re-establish its running game against an improving Hoosiers defense.

Yet in football, the attention usually will focus on the quarterback. And the fact is either O'Brien or Phillips will be in position to script an impressive personal comeback story.

More importantly, one or the other can help the Badgers continue their November success, and reach the conference title game for the second straight year.

Four Nations Update: Rigsby records shutout for Team USA

It was a big day for Alex Rigsby in the first day of competition at the 2012 Four Nations Cup in Finland.

The junior goaltender made her debut in net for the U.S. Senior Women's National Team, starting against Sweden.

Rigsby made her first game count, recording her first shutout with the team. It also marks the fourth shutout in a row for Rigsby, who entered the tournament with three-consecutive shutouts with the Badgers.

Team USA skated to a 4-0 win over Sweden, outshooting the Swedes 47-9. Senior Brianna Decker netted the fourth goal of the game, marking the first Badger to score a goal at the 2012 Four Nations Cup.

Meghan Duggan recorded two shots in the game and Hilary Knight recorded five.

In the second game of the day, Canada beat Finland by a score of 6-0, outshooting the Fins 38-17.

Meaghan Mikkelson and Bobbi-Jo Slusar both skated for Team Canada, with Mikkelson recording two shots on goal.

The U.S. and Canada will face off against each other tomorrow in the preliminary round at 8 a.m. (CT). The tournament will take a day off before resuming with the final round of prelims on Friday followed by medal games on Saturday.

Two Badgers head off to Finland with Team USA

Team USA Four Nations Home  |  Team Canada Four Nations Home

MADISON, Wis. --
In the middle of the semester, and after sweeping Minnesota State this past weekend, Wisconsin women's hockey team members Brianna Decker and Alex Rigsby packed their bags for Finland.

No, it's not a European getaway for some rest and relaxation.

The two standouts on the women's hockey team took off to play with the U.S. Senior Women's National Team for the 2012 Four Nations Cup, an annual round-robin tournament that features the U.S., Canada, Finland and Sweden.

"It's really cool to be able to think that I'll be leaving for Finland," Rigsby commented after shutting out Minnesota State last Saturday night. "It was kind of stressful leading up to the weekend, having to make up exams and quizzes. I had to be on top of that, because I didn't want to come back and be completely behind."

"I think you just need to have a good balance with school and your sport, and that's what can be one of the most difficult parts," Decker added.

Another challenge the players face is playing for two different teams.

In less than 48 hours after skating at LaBahn Arena, Decker and Rigsby were on the ice with Team USA half a world away. Not only is the level of play different, but the team implements different systems and strategies than those they've been accustomed to all season at Wisconsin.

As a goalie, Rigsby has pointed out one specific difference between the two teams.

"I think the biggest thing with (Team USA) is playing the puck; their system is a little bit different than what we have here (at UW) and I've been trying to work on that this year."

The experience in Finland also stands to be vastly different for the two.
The 2012 Four Nations Cup will be the fourth time Decker has suited up in the tournament. For Rigsby, the tournament will be the first time she has skated with the U.S. Senior Women's National Team.

Many wouldn't have doubted Rigsby's skills in years past, but with fewer spots available for goaltenders on any hockey team, she has had to patiently wait for her opportunity to play with the senior team.

Now that chance has come.

"It's pretty exciting to finally get my foot in the door and finally be a part of the national team," Rigsby said.

Growing up playing with Rigsby in youth hockey in the greater-Milwaukee area, Decker has seen the hard work Rigsby has put in to get this opportunity.

"I'm excited to play with her on the national team," Decker remarked. "I think it's well deserved. She's been working her butt off to get to where she's at and she's earned her chance to play with the senior team."

The two both played with the U.S. U-23 team this summer in a three-game series against Canada, where Decker captained the U.S. to a sweep over its northern neighbor. Also the captain of the Badgers this season, Decker will be coming back to the national team with a different perspective.

"I'll take the leadership I've learned both from here at UW and with the U-23 team," Decker said. "There are other leaders and veterans that can step up and they'll lead differently. I can still learn from them and pick up on things, but at the same time I'm going to continue to play hard and play my role."

Rigsby enters the tournament presumably as Team USA's third-string goalie. A status not to be taken lightly as All-American goaltenders Jessie Vetter and Molly Schaus will also be competing for time in net.

"I'm not going to get too worked up if I don't get the start against Canada," Rigsby jested, as she understands and embraces her position with the team.

"I'm taking this as a learning experience and I'm excited to just be a part of the team and being able to put on the jersey for the first time at the senior national team level. I've done it in the past, but never with them, and it's always a great feeling knowing you're representing your country."

Even though it's the fourth tournament for Decker, that excitement of representing her country has never gotten old.

"Getting together with the girls and being able to hang out with them is great. They're the most talented girls in the country and being able to play with them is an honor," Decker commented.

But there is one thing Decker is looking forward more than anything else in Finland.

"Hopefully playing in the championship game and winning a gold medal."

In addition to Decker and Rigsby, five former Badgers will participate in the Four Nation's Cup. Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight and Vetter, will skate for the U.S. squad, while Meaghan Mikkelson and Bobbi-Jo Slusar will skate with Team Canada.

Team USA starts the 2012 Four Nations Cup on Tuesday with a game against Sweden at 8 a.m. (CT). Canada starts on Tuesday as well, playing against Finland at 11 a.m. (CT).

Soccer Insider: Badgers with chance at making 2012 Big Dance

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Despite falling in the first round of the 2012 Big Ten Tournament and witnessing its own bubble nearly burst following Illinois' upset win over Penn State in the tournament's semifinals, Wisconsin is still alive and kicking in its quest for its third berth in the NCAA Tournament in the last four years.

The official announcement of the 64-team field will not occur until Monday at 3:30 p.m. (CT), but that gives us two days to project and form our own opinions on the chances that Bucky will see at least one more game this season.

The RPI rankings are one of the biggest indicators of a potential NCAA Tournament team. A team's strength of schedule, combined with its overall record, cannot make or break a team's chances, but are huge in the grand scheme of things. In theory, teams in the RPI top-40 are in the comfort zone, while Nos. 41-64 are sweating as they keep an eye out for upsets come conference tournament time. There are exactly 24 AQ (automatic qualifier) bids in the tournament, which go to each conference's tournament champion.

When looking at the latest RPI rankings, which were released Oct. 29, Wisconsin was in the top-40, falling to No. 36 after its loss to Iowa on Oct. 27. The Badgers' 2012 schedule featured matches against six teams in the current RPI top-25, which included games against four of those seven teams on the road. UW also suffered one-goal losses to a pair of RPI top-five squads in UCLA (8/31) and Penn State (9/16).

According to former MLS star and U.S. National Team member turned women's soccer blogger, Chris Henderson, this past week's conference tournament did not hurt UW as much as we thought. Following multiple losses for various bubble teams and squads poised to steal AQ  bids, it looks like Wisconsin's season is still intact -- but nothing is for certain until the NCAA Tournament selection committee says it is.


The selection committee will make its announcement on the field of 64 on Monday, Nov. 5, at 3:30 p.m. (CT). The selection show can be viewed live on NCAA.com.

Starting a new tradition

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In today's Badger Blog, senior Kelsey Horton talks about starting a new tradition of volunteering at UW and what participating in the Gilda's Club Run/Walk meant to her. 

As the my fellow seniors and I filed into coach Healy's office before the start of what would be our last fall semester as Badger softball players, we were asked how we wanted to be remembered. 

We knew what steps needed to be taken on the field to achieve the goals we set out for ourselves but we also looked outside the lines. We wanted to start a new tradition that would stick with this program even after we were long gone. Volunteering and charity work has been a staple within UW softball and something we love committing our time to off the field. 

After discussing our options with our coaches we decided that Gilda's Club was a good place to begin a new year of volunteer work. Gilda's Club was named as a tribute to Gilda Radner who died of ovarian cancer in 1989 and is a community support program for people living with cancer, their families and friends. The Gilda's Club here in Madison holds a fundraising 5k walk/run and 10k which has grown tremendously since they first started the event five years ago.

On October 21, we worked as course marshals to encourage the participants, assisted in the lunch provided after the race was over and also helped supervise the kids' bouncy house and play area. 

The volunteers were given a brief history describing how Gilda Radner's husband, Gene Wilder, and her cancer psychotherapist, Joanna Bull, founded the club as a means of providing meeting places where men, women and children living with cancer and their families and friends join with others to build emotional and social support as a supplement to their medical care. 

This nonprofit organization has helped over 1,400 people in 14 counties in southwest Wisconsin. The volunteers also received a tour of the facilities which included amenities like a recreation room, kids play room, full kitchen and lounge areas where members can relax. As the morning progressed, it was off to work and everyone assumed their positions for the start of the race. 

A few Badgers signed up to run the race including Stephanie Peace and Cassandra Darrah. The participants stood at the start line and were able to hear stories from a few cancer survivors whose families had joined Gilda's Club. They described how a teenage son, who at first felt like he had no one to talk to about the devastating news of his mother's diagnosis, found a support group who welcomed him with open arms. This along, with many other stories, fueled the runners as they took off from the start line and remained present in their minds throughout the race. 

The experience stuck with our Badger volunteers but hit home especially for Mary Massei who is a thyroid cancer survivor. While speaking with Mary after the race, she said that she had not expected her time spent volunteering to be emotional but after hearing the history and stories from survivors like her, she wishes she had also found a support group like those at Gilda's Club. 
Her family and friends were there for her throughout her whole battle which was not an easy task; the people at Gilda's provide a welcoming environment away from the emotionally charged health care setting where people can simply be themselves. During the tour of the club, Mary was browsing the library and found a book that piqued her interest. She describes it as a guide to dealing with the memory of enduring cancer and treatment even after it is all over. Mary has been cancer free for one year and four months, but says there is still so much to work on within herself. 

Mary volunteered as a course marshal and felt the impact of what Gilda's Run was all about as the participants ran by. Our course marshals directed the runners with no idea of whether the people running by were survivors, friends of survivors, or people who had simply heard about the race. 

It all just puts it in perspective, the resilience and determination people have within themselves. We are so thankful to have heard the inspiring stories of so many strong people and to have witnessed so much generosity. We are honored to have been a part of raising over $50,000 from over 1,000 volunteers and participants for this remarkable organization. 
This is the start of a new tradition for the Badger softball team.

Getting to know the Badgers: Kelsey Kleist

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Meet freshman Badger Kelsey Kleist! She is from Plymouth, Minn. and attended Wayzata High School. The catcher was a four-year letterwinner and a two-time first-team all-conference selection. She made first-team all-state her junior year, was named team captain and first-team all-section her senior year, and led her team in batting average and RBI. Kelsey was also a letterwinner is basketball. She participated in marching band, mock trial, photography and Spanish club.  Her parents are Scott and RaNae Kleist and she has one younger brother, Konnor. Number 33's hobbies include photography, basketball and music and her major is undecided.  

We took a little time for some Q&A with Kelsey:

Q: Who or what got you started in softball?
A: My parents signed me up for all sorts of sports as a little kid, and softball is the sport that stuck.

Q: At what age did you start playing softball?
A: I started playing at about the age of six, when I participated in t-ball, and I worked my way up to fastpitch.

Q: If you didn't play softball, which sport would you play?
A: I would definitely play basketball.

Q: What is your dream job?
A: To be a photographer for National Geographic, and travel the world taking pictures of wildlife.

Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: Grease, such a classic.

Q: Who is your favorite athlete/athletic team?
A: Joe Mauer from the Minnesota Twins.  He's a lefty batter and a catcher! We were meant to be!

Q: Describe your dream vacation
A: To travel with my family and my camera to the Australian outback.

Q: What is your favorite sports/softball memory?
A: Beating our high school rival at their home field, in extra innings my junior year. Such a small victory, but it was the most exciting game I've ever played in.

Q: Do you have any pump up or pre-game music or rituals?
A: No doubt, Eminem's song Lose Yourself. I thought the song was so cool in like fifth grade, and have been listening to it before every game since.

Q: What is the best part of playing softball at Wisconsin?
A: Spending time with the team! Being surrounded by such talented and fun girls has made the transition into college so much easier.

Q: Where is you favorite spot on campus?
A: My dorm! It's also nice to come back to Dejope to study, sleep and eat.

Q: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
A: Peppermint bon bon

Q: What is your favorite Crayola crayon color?
A: Red, of course!

Q: What TV show do you wish you could be in?
A: Seinfeld, the show about nothing. I would love to hangout with George, Jerry, Elaine and Kramer!

Q: If you could be any person for a day, who would you be?
A: I would want to be the President of the United States, just to hangout in the White House.

Q: If you were stranded on an island and could only have three items with you, what would they be?
A: I would bring my camera bag, (loaded with solar battery packs) a Sudoku puzzle book, and a good beach chair.