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.