December 2012 Archives

Rallying the troops

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Photo Gallery: LA Live Pep Rally

The Badgers put in their penultimate practice for the Rose Bowl on Sunday, but not before being energized by thousands of fans who have descended on Los Angeles for the game.

Prior to heading back to The Home Depot Center for drills, the team made an appearance at LA Live for a special Rose Bowl Pep Rally. Around 3,000 UW fans showed up for the event, which included a performance from the UW Marching Band and remarks from special guests like UW-Madison Chancellor David Ward and Badgers legend Ron Dayne.

The biggest cheer, however, came when the team emerged from the Staples Center onto a balcony overlooking the plaza at LA Live, tossing T-shirts and autographed footballs into the crowd. Following some words from interim head coach Barry Alvarez, defensive captains Chris Borland, Shelton Johnson and Mike Taylor spoke to the fans, as did Travis Frederick, Curt Phillips, and finally, Montee Ball.

For Alvarez, the event followed one last media availability leading up to game day, a morning press conference for both head coaches at the Rose Bowl media hotel in downtown L.A.

Monday's schedule has the Badgers heading to Pasadena to take a team photo outside the Rose Bowl, followed by one final practice session and a screening of the movie "Jack Reacher."

Taking time to give back

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Photo Gallery: Media Day & AbilityFirst Visit

A rainy morning in Los Angeles made it an easy decision for the Wisconsin coaching staff to call of practice for the day, but the inclement weather brought with it a silver lining.

The Badgers called an audible and held a walk-through at the team hotel instead of busing to The Home Depot Center for what was scheduled to be a quick 12-period practice. Interim head coach Barry Alvarez told the team that the staff's focus for Saturday was aimed at mental preparation anyway, so the hotel walk-through fit in well with the schedule.

After the offensive and defensive units finished their walk-throughs in adjacent ballrooms at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, the Badgers had the opportunity to host guests from AbilityFirst, an L.A.-area charity aimed at "expanding possibilities" for children and adults with special needs.

The group had originally planned to join the team on the practice field, but the change in venue brought an opportunity for the Badgers to bring their guests into the players' game room and lounge at the hotel.

No one from either side was complaining when a pool table, ping pong and video games were thrown into the mix, as evidenced by junior LB Chris Borland's tweet:

The Badgers' walk-through and time with the guests from AbilityFirst came after the entire squad bused to The L.A. Hotel Downtown for the Rose Bowl's annual media day. Players and coaches spent 30 minutes being interviewed, including some who took time to join an onsite crew from BTN captained by Rick Pizzo, Glen Mason and fromer Badger Brandon Williams.

Path to Pasadena: Episode 3

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From takeoff in Madison to touchdown in Los Angeles and beyond, the latest episode of UWBadgers.com's video series "Path to Pasadena" takes you behind the scenes of the Badgers' preparations for the Rose Bowl.

If nothing else, it's worth watching Beau Allen go from searching Disneyland for princesses to telling Darth Vader he's making the switch to the Dark Side.

Also be sure to check out the first two episodes:

Path to Pasadena: Episode 1 Small Video Graphic  |  Path to Pasadena: Episode 2 Small Video Graphic

There's the beef

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Photo Gallery: Practice & Lawry's Beef Bowl

For many of Wisconsin's players, the highlight of the week leading up to the Rose Bowl came Friday as the Badgers descended on Lawry's The Prime Rib in Beverly Hills for the annual Lawry's Beef Bowl.

A part of the Rose Bowl since 1957, the event gives both participating teams in The Granddaddy of Them All to have one grand meal.

Over the years, the Beef Bowl has also developed into an unofficial competition between the Rose Bowl opponents. Last year, the Badgers consumed 723 pounds of prime rib to easily defeat Oregon and its total of 612 pounds.

Travis Frederick led the way by putting away what is believed to be a record eight servings of prime rib. That came on the heels of his seven servings in 2011.

Frederick's mark was in danger of falling on Friday once sophomore OL Dallas Lewallen picked up his fork and knife. However, Lewallen's night came to an end after he finished seven servings to match the effort of Stanford freshman OL Joshua Garnett from the Cardinal's appearance at Lawry's on Thursday.

"They couldn't bring the meat out fast enough," said Lewallen, who simply ran out of time to eat before he was forced to return to the team buses in order to make the trip back to the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza.

Frederick still managed to take center stage, however, getting the honor of being the "salad spinner" and applying Lawry's signature dressing to the first bowl of salad.

Not to be outdone, junior DT Beau Allen -- considered by many of his teammates to be a challenger to Frederick's throne going into the event -- drew the duty of making the ceremonial "first cut" of prime rib. Wearing a chef's coat and hat, Allen served the first cut to Badgers interim head coach Barry Alvarez.

Preparations continue on practice field
The Badgers' day began with LB Chris Borland, DT Ethan Hemer, S Shelton Johnson, CB Devin Smith and LB Mike Taylor accompanying defensive coordinator Chris Ash and co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge to a morning media session at The L.A. Hotel Downtown.

After position and special teams meetings, the Badgers returned to the practice field at The Home Depot center and worked for 16 periods. The practice again featured live contact in short scrimmages between the offensive and defensive units.

New head coach Gary Andersen, who takes the helm at UW following the Rose Bowl, was a guest on the sideline for the practice session after arriving from Logan, Utah. His arrival into L.A. came a day later than planned due to winter weather that grounded air travel out of Utah on Thursday.

Andersen met with members of the media following practice and said he hopes to announce the bulk of his coaching staff over the next few days.

Saturday morning is Rose Bowl media day, with the entire Badgers roster set to head to the media hotel downtown for availability with members of the local and national media.

The Voice: Tough slate should help shape Badgers

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgThis week your friendly blogger will take a break from all things Badger football and focus on the basketball squad.

Yes, at times it has been a rough non-conference season. When you consider the season-ending knee injury to Josh Gasser, and Mike Bruesewitz being in and out of the lineup, the Badgers became a much younger team.

Given that, one might argue the Badgers have over-scheduled in the non-conference.

Take a look at the rest of the Big Ten. Five teams in the league played one true road game. One team will not have a true road tussle until conference play begins.

The Badgers are one of six Big Ten teams to play two games in what can be termed hostile environments. Four of the six were sent packing for one game as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

The other two, Wisconsin and Illinois, simply scheduled a couple of trips on their own. Prior to winning the Maui Invitational, the Illini stopped in Honolulu to play Hawaii. Illinois also owns the Big Ten's most impressive road win to date after beating Gonzaga, 85-74.

It is fair to suggest that the Badgers' roadies at Florida and at Marquette are as tough as it gets in the Big Ten and probably beyond. While the results were not what Bo Ryan and company would prefer, it could end up making them stronger.

The Badgers are going through some growing pains, and everyone has a chance to observe them. The backcourt is young, and at times, can struggle. Most young players have their ups and downs, but fans should be encouraged by the upside of this group.

In the recent game against Green Bay, the Badgers recovered from a very bumpy start. Providing a spark was redshirt freshman George Marshall, who drilled a couple of 3-point shots. Traevon Jackson is showing signs of settling, as he was turnover-free and had two steals against the Phoenix. Those two continued to show progress last Saturday against Milwaukee.

And let's face it, there is a buzz when freshmen Sam Dekker and Zak Showalter step on the floor. They both continue to learn what Bo Ryan wants done and how he wants it done, but how do you not love the energy of these first-year players? You want to try to get to a loose ball before Showalter? Do so at your own risk.

As the head coach has stated, everyone needs to bring a little more to the table, both the veterans and the rookies. While Bruesewitz fights through a brutally frustrating stretch of injuries, fellow seniors Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren are fully aware of what they need to do. Both are proven players in this league, and no doubt, they are eager to crank up the volume as conference play approaches.

I guess I have been around Bo Ryan's teams long enough to know that what you see in November and December isn't necessarily what you see later in the season. His teams have a seemingly uncommon ability to improve. With the Big Ten looking to be as good as it has been in quite awhile, getting better is a necessity this winter.

This is where such a difficult pre-conference schedule can help. The venues in Gainesville and Milwaukee were loud, and there was little in the way of Badger Love in either location. The players have now been exposed to that type of atmosphere.

They will have faced Creighton, Virginia and yes, the state's other Division I schools. I include Green Bay and Milwaukee because you have to figure Wisconsin is a game they circle, and they always have a thorough scouting report on the Badgers.

The conference season will provide few, if any, so-called breathers. The Badgers' schedule through the last month-and-a-half could very well have them more prepared than most for what lies ahead.

History tells us it is worth watching to find out.

Badgers discuss, practice for Stanford

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Photo Gallery: Press Conference & Practice   |  Live #Badgers Updates

The fun and games of Wednesday's trip to Disneyland behind them, the Badgers got back to work on Thursday by returning to the practice field at The Home Depot Center.

After being relegated to an artificial surface on Wednesday due to wet field conditions, UW drilled for 18 periods on natural grass Thursday to better simulate the turf they'll play on in the Rose Bowl.

Prior to practice, Jared Abbrederis, Montee Ball, Travis Frederick, Curt Phillips and James White accompanied offensive coordinator Matt Canada to the Rose Bowl's media hotel in downtown Los Angeles for a morning press conference.

The biggest news of the day came from Canada, who told reporters that junior QB Joel Stave will be cleared to play for the game. Canada said Stave, who has been recovering from a broken collarbone suffered vs. Michigan State on Oct. 27, will be worked into the game plan in some capacity, while Phillips will be the starting quarterback.

"There's a chance you'll see him out there at times," Canada said of Stave.

That came as news to Stave -- who had yet to be officially cleared for game action -- when reporters questioned him on the development following practice.

"I figured by the way I was practicing without any pain that I'd get cleared sooner or later," he said.

Back to the fun and games, the Badgers' last stop for the day was the Improv in Hollywood to take in a stand-up comedy act. The annual stop has become a favorite of the players over their past two trips to the Rose Bowl,

Back in the 'Happiest Place on Earth'

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Photo Gallery: Practice & Disneyland

Wednesday brought the first on-site practice for the Wisconsin football team in Los Angeles, with the Badgers working through 12 periods of drills at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

Their Rose Bowl preparations done for the day, the team loaded buses and headed for Anaheim for an afternoon at Disneyland.

Seniors Montee Ball, Shelton Johnson, Curt Phillips, Mike Taylor and Rick Wagner joined interim head coach Barry Alvarez for a special introduction ceremony welcoming both the Badgers and Stanford to the "Happiest Place on Earth." The welcome event included a brief session of media interviews before the players got a VIP tour of the park.

The first stop was The Matterhorn, with Wagner drawing the unfortunate duty of cramming his 6-foot-6 frame into the front car of the Badgers' train. All five made it through the classic ride without incident and then were whisked away to the California Adventure park.

The Badgers had the chance to ride the Radiator Springs Racers ride inside the new Cars Land area of California Adventure and then posed for a group photo before heading out to experience the rides of their choice. At a minimum, Phillips planned to lead the group to the Tower of Terror and Space Mountain before they headed back to the team hotel in Century City.

A number of other players were planning to take advantage of a team meal at the ESPN Zone at Downtown Disney, adjacent to the park.

Wednesday's schedule begins with a news conference for offensive coordinator Matt Canada and selected offensive players at the Rose Bowl's media hotel in downtown L.A. The team then returns to the practice field for an 18-period session, followed by a team trip to the Improv comedy club.

Badgers settle in, get back to work in L.A.

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Photo Gallery: Travel Day   |  Live #Badgers Updates on Twitter

All families have their holiday traditions. For the Wisconsin football family, it's become a Christmas tradition to pack up and head west for Los Angeles.

The Badgers did just that for the third-consecutive year on Tuesday, as they returned to L.A. to continue their preparations for the 99th Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1.

The team met for a conditioning session in the morning before loading buses bound for the Dane County Regional Airport. After a four-hour flight, the Badgers' Delta charter touched down at LAX just after 3 p.m. local time and the team hopped on some specially-decorated buses to head to the Rose Bowl for a first look at the stadium.

Interim head coach Barry Alvarez said he likes taking the team to the field immediately to give the players a chance soak in the setting and enjoy taking some photos so they arrive for the game on Jan. 1 focused on the task at hand.

After the brief sightseeing excursion, the Badgers settled in at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza and met briefly as a team before enjoying a less-than-traditional take on Christmas dinner -- with pizza, pasta and chicken fingers.

The work truly begins for the Badgers on Wednesday, when they take the practice field at The Home Depot Center for the first of six scheduled practices leading up to game day. Of course, it won't be all work and no play for the team, which heads to Disneyland in the afternoon.

Montee Ball, Rick Wagner, Mike Taylor, Shelton Johnson, Curt Phillips will join Alvarez for a short press conference in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle before getting a chance to ride the new attractions at Cars Land in Disney's California Adventure park. The rest of the team can roam the grounds until they meet for dinner at the ESPNZone to cap their first full day in L.A.

Getting to know the Badgers: Taylor-Paige Stewart

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Meet Badger freshman Taylor-Paige Stewart! She is from Calabasas, Calif., and attended Chaminade College Prep High School. The righty batter was a four-year letterwinner was named second-team All-Mission League Division III, and also achieved Academic Honors all four years. She earned the Coach's Award sophomore year, earned the Toshiba/BSTA Exporavision Award freshman year and was also named Female Freshman Athlete of the Year.

Stewart received the Student Athlete Award her senior year and graduated as a National Honor Society member.

Her head coach was Gina Hairepatian. She was also a letterwinner in soccer, and volunteered as a math tutor. Taylor also played for the New Zealand National Softball team and participated in the Softball World Championships in 2012.

Her parents are Joe and Rosemary Stewart. She has a younger brother, Dylan. Some of her hobbies include, watching movies, going to the beach, traveling, scrap-booking and spending time with family and friends. Her major is currently undecided.

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

Q: Who or what got you started in softball?
A: My parents signed me up when I was about six, right after one of my soccer practices and I got hooked. My mom had played softball growing up, and my dad played baseball up until college too.

Q: At what age did you start playing softball?
A: I started playing at the age of six, right when I was starting first grade.
 
Q: If you didn't play softball, which sport would you play?
A: I was a multi-sport athlete most of my life. I played soccer until my senior year at high school. So, if I hadn't chose softball, I would have continued to pursue soccer.

Q: What is your dream job?
A: CIA Secret Agent

Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: Hunger Games

Q: Who is your favorite athlete/athletic team?
A: Leah O'Brian-Amico / New Zealand All Blacks (Rugby Team)

Q: Describe your dream vacation
A: A trip to Europe and seeing a bunch of countries like Italy, Greece, France etc.

Q: What is your favorite sports/softball memory?
A: My favorite memory from softball was when I first found out I was going to be representing New Zealand in the World Series playing for their women's national team. I was able to travel to Canada, and got to start against the U.S Women's National team as a senior in high school, facing some of my softball idols I had watched on T.V.

Q: Do you have any pump up or pre-game music or rituals?
A: A ritual I have is that I visualize the game where I think I played the best I ever have, so that I'm confident going into the game. I also like listening to rap and R&B before games because it gets me pumped up and ready.

Q: What is the best part of playing softball at Wisconsin?
A: The best part of playing softball at Wisconsin is the amazing athletic atmosphere I get to be a part of. I have an incredible group of girls that I call my team, and I get to learn from coaches who really know so much about the game and how it's played.

Q: Where is your favorite spot on campus?
A: My favorite spot on campus definitely has to be where we get to study in Camp Randall. Looking out to the football field every night while doing homework, reminds me of how lucky I am to be there. I get to meet a bunch of other amazing athletes and to know we're all here representing the same school is a great feeling.
 
Q: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
A: I'm a sucker for anything chocolate or coffee flavored, it's definitely my weakness.

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

Q: What TV show do you wish you could be in?
A: I don't watch much TV, but I'd have to say Friends.

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

Q: If you were stranded on an island and could only have three items with you, what would they be?
A:  A knife, a life raft and some type of firework.

Getting to know the Badgers: Stefanni Lajeunesse

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Meet Badger freshman Stefanni Lajeunesse! She is from Los Angeles, Calif., and attended Mira Costa Manhattan Beach High School. The lefty batter was a four-year letterwinner and earned the Mustand Award, which is rewarded to four year starters. She received the Longest Ball Award, was named Most Outstanding Player and was a Scholar Athlete for four years straight.

Her head coach was Richard Amberick. She volunteered for three years with M.T.R.C. (Making the Right Connections) and also volunteered with an anti-drug, anti-gang organization educating children.

Her parents are Albert LaJeunesse and Sandra Ponce. She has a younger sister, Adriana. Her father, Albert, wrestled and was on the track and field team at the University of New Mexico for one year. Some of her hobbies include, volunteering at an inner city Catholic school in her community, spending time with her family and cooking with her tata (grandfather). Her major is currently undecided.

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

Q: Who or what got you started in softball?
A: Baseball has always been my family's favorite sport. My grandpa loves to watch the games, and I love to do anything my grandpa loves to do. So when I was given a bat and hit the ball at such a young age, my family knew that I was a force to be reckoned with.

Q: At what age did you start playing softball?
A: I didn't start playing or even knew softball existed until I was 12. I had played baseball all my life.

Q: If you didn't play softball, which sport would you play?
A: I would definitely play soccer. Put me in as goalie and we are golden.

Q: What is your dream job?
A: My dream job is to open authentic Mexican restaurants in the Midwest and East Coast called "Las Chenchas". The goal is to bring the Mexican flavor from Los Angeles, Calif., to other parts of the United States, because I sure do miss the home cooking from Los Angeles out here.

Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: I have two all-time favorite movies. A Walk to Remember, I mean who doesn't love a great Nicholas Sparks love story, and the must see classic, A League of Their Own. My favorite line is, "There's no crying in baseball!"

Q: Who is your favorite athlete/athletic team?
A: My favorite athletic team is the LA Dodgers.

Q: Describe your dream vacation
A. If I could go anywhere, I would choose to travel all over Europe and visit many historical locations from The Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, to the concentration camps in Germany and Poland.

Q: What is your favorite sports/softball memory?
A: My favorite softball memory was when I got recruited to play here. At that moment I knew that all the years of playing the sport I love had finally helped me achieve my dream of playing softball at a great Division I program.

Q: Do you have any pump up or pre-game music or rituals?
A: The first song that I have to listen to is Sail by AWOLNATION before any game. It's the perfect song to get you in game mode, and then I proceed to listen to Eminem, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and some Al Green.

Q: What is the best part of playing softball at Wisconsin?
A: The best part of playing softball at Wisconsin is the family you have here. The girls are like my sisters here and the coaching staff is amazing. The camaraderie and friendship on this team is amazing, and I am so grateful to be a part of such a great family.

Q: Where is your favorite spot on campus?
A: My favorite spot on campus would have to be Camp Randall. If I'm not at the softball field or at my dorm, you can be sure to find me studying at Camp Randall.

Q: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
A: My favorite ice cream would have to be Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey.

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

Q: What TV show do you wish you could be in?
A: I wish I could be on Grey's Anatomy, by far the greatest show ever created.

Q: If you could be any person for a day, who would you be?
A: I would be Madea from the Tyler Perry movies. She is such a crazy, witty person. I love it.

Q: If you were stranded on an island and could only have three items with you, what would they be?
A: I would have my 1,001 ways to survive being stranded on an island survival guide, a water bottle with a water filter in it and a picture of my family.

The Voice: 'Barry's back' brings boost for Badgers

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgEarlier this week I was a guest on the University of Wisconsin's student radio station, WSUM, when it hit me -- the last time the Badgers went through a football coaching search, it is unlikely any of show's hosts was born.

Yikes, that makes me feel old.

By New Year's Day 1990, it became apparent that Notre Dame defensive coordinator Barry Alvarez was going to be Wisconsin's next coach. He came to town a tired but very happy man. The previous night his Irish defense stuffed Colorado in the Orange Bowl. During the NBC telecast, Wisconsin was getting some rare national publicity as the announcers talked about Alvarez taking over a program that had won four games in the last three seasons.

It is fair to say that few football fans knew much about Alvarez, but Pat Richter was impressed with the confident young coach, and the rest is history.

To say the last 10 days or so have been a whirlwind would be an understatement, but something fascinating is happening. Fans who might otherwise have had just a casual interest in the Rose Bowl (casual? Rose Bowl? I know that sounds odd, doesn't it?) are now excited, and some have opted to book their airline tickets to Southern California.

No doubt the folks at ESPN are smiling. Rather than harping on a five-loss team in Pasadena, the network has a beautiful storyline of a Hall of Famer returning to a venue he loves so much, and where he has never lost as a head coach.

Better still, the players themselves are thrilled that Alvarez is leading them to Pasadena. When Alvarez stepped down after the 2005 season, many of the current Badgers had yet to reach their teenage years, but they have a pretty good idea of what he means to Wisconsin.

It was impossible not to notice the excitement, from the comments of linebacker Mike Taylor and quarterback Curt Phillips last Wednesday, to the upbeat nature of last Friday night's team awards banquet. What happened was a jolt, but the team has endured more than its share of obstacles this season.

Now, the players view it as an opportunity. An opportunity to play for someone who is a living legend in this state.

It appears the assistants view it much the same way. Tight ends coach Eddie Faulkner and secondary coach Ben Strickland have firsthand experience playing for Alvarez. Running backs boss Thomas Hammock was a graduate assistant for Alvarez. The others know all about him.

Through no fault of their own, many members of the staff face uncertain futures because of Bielema's departure. Yet I am struck by the professionalism of this group, and the determination to make the Rose Bowl a granddaddy of an experience for everyone connected to the team, most importantly the players.

The Badgers will need every bit of that energy to defeat an excellent Stanford team. To be clear, the Badgers never seemed to lack energy, but what has happened in the last week-and-a-half appears to have provided even more of a boost.

It was plenty interesting around here on New Year's Day 1990. I'm thinking New Year's Day 2013 will be anything but boring as well.

Getting to know the Badgers: Staci Roscizewski

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Meet Badger freshman Staci Roscizewski! She is from Racine, Wis., and attended Racine Case High School. The lefty batter was a four-year letterwinner and made first-team all-county and first-team all-conference all four years. She was also named team captain all four years. She earned honorable mention all-district during her sophomore year and honorable mention all-state during her senior year.

Staci was a recipient of the Scholar Athlete award, NAACP Herff Jones Leadership Award and the Principal's Leadership award. Her head coach was Tom Adams. She was vice president of the National Honor Society and the Key Club. She was the president of Student Government. She was a member of the Principal's Advisory Team as well as Leadership Club. She was also a letterwinner in volleyball.

Her parents are Kim and Gray Roscizewski, and she has an older sister, Jena. Her cousin, Kate Ricchio played softball at the University of Toledo-Ohio. Her cousin James Ricchio played baseball at Central Michigan University, and her cousin Jeff Ricchio played football at Wisconsin Lutheran. Her hobbies include watching movies, going to the beach and shopping. Her major is currently undecided.

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

Q: Who or what got you started in softball?
A: My mom started me in softball.

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

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

Q: What is your dream job?
A: Coach

Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: Gladiator

Q: Who is your favorite athlete/athletic team?
A: Joel Stave/Green Bay Packers

Q: Describe your dream vacation
A. Ireland

Q: What is your favorite sports/softball memory?
A: Taking seventh at softball Nationals

Q: Do you have any pump up or pre-game music or rituals?
A: Tie my shoes

Q: What is the best part of playing softball at Wisconsin?
A: Hanging out with the team all of the time. It's like having another family.

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

Q: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
A: Double chocolate chocolate

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

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

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

Q: If you were stranded on an island and could only have three items with you, what would they be?
A: Tom Hanks, Wilson and Nutella.

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A very happy holiday

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In this week's Badger Blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the excitement surrounding the holiday season. 

I hope you're having a great holiday season. There's a lot of excitement in the air between snow, the Rose Bowl, awards and engagements. 

We got our first snow last night in Madison. My daughter Grace had her snow pants over her footie pajamas before we even had our morning coffee. She wanted to sneak a little play time in the snow before church.

I'm sure you've heard that Wisconsin has made the Rose Bowl for the third-straight year. Our athletic director, Barry Alvarez, is coaching the game. It should be an amazing experience for our student-athletes and fans. Shawn, Grace, Maeve and I are all making the trip to California for the game. We're spending the week in the sun, visiting friends and sight-seeing.

Senior football star Montee Ball had a big week of awards for the Badgers too. The Wisconsin senior was named the best running back in college football Thursday when he was presented with the Doak Walker Award during The Home Depot College Football Awards at Walt Disney World. He also was named to the Walter Camp All-America team for the second-consecutive season.

Ball finished ahead of fellow Doak Walker finalists Kenjon Barner of Oregon and Johnathan Franklin of UCLA for the honor, which has been presented to the nation's most outstanding running back each year since 1989.

Ball is the NCAA's all-time leader in touchdowns with 82 and also holds the NCAA career record for rushing touchdowns with 76. He ranks in a tie for fourth all-time among Big Ten players with 5,040 career rushing yards and became the 17th player in FBS history to surpass 5,000 yards.

Still, coach Adix had the most exciting week. She and Ryan got engaged Thursday night!! You'll have to chat with her to get more details. We're so thrilled to grow the Badger softball family. What a fun year this will be for our staff and student-athletes as we get to watch and witness all the excitement surrounding Tracie's upcoming wedding.

Happy Holidays!

Weiss, Team USA invade Turkey

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After being named to the U.S. National Team late this past summer, Wisconsin senior Michael Weiss is enjoying his first taste of international competition as he ventures to Istanbul, Turkey, for the 2012 FINA Short Course World Championships. Weiss, who is teaming up with members of the U.S.'s 2012 Olympic squad, including gold medalist Ryan Lochte, will compete for Team USA once the meet begins on Dec. 12. 

The Reno, Nev., native is joined on the trip by Badgers swim and dive head coach Whitney Hite who was named an assistant for Team USA at the short course world championships. Weiss will be updating us on all that is happening in Turkey throughout the trip, from start to finish. Follow his journey as Weiss blogs about his experiences both in and out of the pool.

Monday, Dec. 17

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I'm heading home back to Madison! It was a fantastic last night of racing -- enjoyed being able to hang out with the team a little more. Going to this meet was one of the best experiences of my life and I can't wait participate in future world competitions for Team USA. I got to know, learn from, and hang out with many Olympians that I've looked up to for a long time, as well as the young swimmers that I will be traveling with a lot in the future.

Moving forward, I have already turned all my focus back on the college season and NCAA's and can't wait to finish out a great senior year!!
-Weiss



Saturday, Dec. 15

McDs_cropped.jpgAnother great day in Istanbul! I've begun training hard again to continue my focus on the college season and NCAA's. Now that I am done competing I am able to relax and cheer on the rest of the team. 

The U.S. has been doing a great job throughout the meet and I watched Ryan Lochte win the 200 IM last night and set a world record! Today between prelims and finals I was able to get out of the hotel and walk around a little visiting our hometown favorites Starbucks and McDonalds, although the fries and chicken nuggets didn't taste quite as deliciously unhealthy. Then we explored the streets and went to a store to buy all different kinds of candy, which consisted of mostly variations of chocolate wafers with nuts. 

Tonight we are heading to the pool to watch another great night of finals and cheer on America! One more day left in Turkey and I can't wait to come back to Wisconsin to enjoy some cheese curds, a Greenbush doughnut, and Ian's pizza!!
-Weiss


Friday, Dec. 14

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I had a great first day (ever) of international competition and was able to conquer all of my goals. The night before competition, the head coach told me I would be anchoring the 800 free relay as well after my individual event and I was extremely happy I was given that opportunity. I knew I was capable of a great 200 free and helping Team USA bring home the gold later that night. 

During the finals session leading up to my 400IM I remained very relaxed and confident as I always am, and anxiously sat in the ready room with my competition. Wearing the red, white, and blue jacket and putting on a cap with my last name under the American flag, was all the motivation and excitement I needed for fast swimming. 

The doors opened, my name was announced, an I heard the team chanting USA as I walked to the blocks. I was able to drop another second from my morning swim and get 7th place. To top off the great day I was already having, later that night the relay I was on won gold for America and officially made me a World Champion! Overall, it was an awesome experience and I'm excited to come back to Madison with a gold medal!!!
- Weiss 
                                                                                       

Wednesday, Dec. 12

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World championships has officially started! The head of USA swimming gave the team a great pump up speech about representing your country and making them proud. Team USA had some really good swims on day one of the meet and we hope to keep it going throughout the weekend. 

As much as I would've loved to watch the opening ceremonies and first night of finals tonight, I spent most of my day in the hotel room resting and shaving to get ready for tomorrow! I will be swimming the 400 IM and I will also anchor the 800 free relay in the morning session. Can't wait to get out there and race and make Wisconsin and America proud!
-Weiss

Tuesday, Dec. 11

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Yesterday we took a tour through Old Town Istanbul. Due to a constantly growing population there is traffic everywhere 24/7. Fortunately for the U.S. team we have a police escort on a motorcycle blocking lanes off and weaving us through traffic to get us there faster.

We started off by going shopping at a bazaar, a market with a bunch of little shops set up in it. Unfortunately for me most of the shops consisted of rugs, jewelry, and scarves so I ended up not getting anything except a pastry for dessert.  And then we went and visited the Blue Mosque (a really cool famous place with a lot of history, but I couldn't hear the tour guide haha)

We woke up today and went and warmed up to get ready for competition to start tomorrow.

Now that all countries are here many of the warm up lanes swam in the reverse direction, which helped me understand why our foreigners struggle when first coming to America. We will spend the rest of today resting, stretching, and getting ready for the meet to start tomorrow!!!
- Weiss


Friday, Dec. 7 (Team departs for Turkey)

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We started off the journey with plane delays and flight cancellations, but got a nice jog as we hustled from gate to gate -- we just barely made our connection to Istanbul! Had a nice time on the flight getting to know all the members of Team USA and hanging out with great flight attendants to keep us happy and amused for the long flight.

We arrived in Istanbul and checked into our hotel and had some down time after not sleeping at all the night before. Finally, we went to the pool and warmed up and got excited for a good week of fun and fast swimming. So far, all of our meals have been similar to an Indian food buffet back in the states - we have baklava for dessert every day, so I could definitely get used to this!
- Weiss

The Voice: History indicates future still bright for Badgers

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgWhile speaking to the Madison Sports Hall of Fame Club last week, a person asked me about the six Wisconsin football assistant coaches who last winter left the program for other jobs. The person asking the question is a very loyal Badgers fan, and seemed to struggle understanding why anyone would leave here.

A big part of my answer had to do with making a business decision. Yes, Madison is a wonderful town, and the University of Wisconsin is a world-class institution. I would like to believe those are facts, not just biased observations.

However, there can come a time in anyone's life when he or she needs to assess the pros and cons of an opportunity elsewhere. By and large, those former UW assistants accepted promotions and are being paid accordingly.

Sometimes you have to make a business decision.

That seems to be what is in play with Bret Bielema, who stunned fans and appeared to do the same to his team at the news of his departure for Arkansas.

When you win a lot of games, and Bielema's teams have averaged nearly 10 victories a season, you are going to hear from other schools, or even NFL teams. Especially when you are younger. At age 42, Bielema certainly qualifies as a younger coach.

It is no secret that there is more money to be made by coaching at several SEC schools, including Arkansas. Assistant coaches in that conference can make eye-popping salaries. The SEC has won the last six BCS national titles, and no doubt the folks at Arkansas believe they can join the party.

They have the money. They have the facilities. They have a rabid fan base.

Then again, take a look at the SEC West Division. The Hogs will deal with LSU, Alabama and Texas A&M.

An extremely rugged division, but it is an opportunity Bielema must believe he could not refuse.

I get it, and I wish him the best of luck.

When a coach leaves, it is natural for fans and everyone else to get emotional. I get that, too. But I would hope in time we can all look back and say Bret Bielema's seven years as Wisconsin's head coach were pretty good. The worst season was 2008, when the team went 7-6 and was thumped in the Champs Sports Bowl.

He learned from that season, and the Badgers have been good ever since. Championship good for the last three years.

Has Bielema turned off some fans? Yes. Following a living legend has to be a challenge to begin with, but it is obvious that many folks never warmed to him. Maybe it is the Iowa background. Maybe it is the two Rose Bowl losses. Maybe it is other game management issues. Or maybe it is something else.

But the guy won. A lot. And his teams won with good players who, with rare exception, have been low maintenance and high character on and off the field.

That isn't so bad, is it?

Bielema will move on, and so will the Badgers. It should help Badger fans to know that Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez knows what he is doing.

The University of Wisconsin head football position is a good gig. Alvarez is rather well connected in this racket, and far more than any of us, he understands the importance of finding the right fit.

As difficult as it might be, maybe the best advice for fans is to sit tight and trust the process. Alvarez likes to say he has been to "Handlin' School." In other words, he has ample experience handling tough situations. That is what coaches do. That is what athletic directors do.

Alvarez is both, and that gives the Badgers a good chance of finding an excellent coach.

Getting to know the Badgers: Katie Christner

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Meet badger freshman Katie Christner! She is from Tinley Park, Ill., and attended Victor J. Andrew High School. The righty batter was a four-year letterwinner and was named first-team all-conference as a sophomore and junior. As a sophomore, junior and senior she was named Southwest Suburban all-conference and Illinois Coach's Association second-team. She earned the Scholar Athlete award all four years. She also earned the Chicago Sun-times all-area honorable mention award during her junior year.

During her senior year she was named Southtown Star all-area, Chicago Tribune all-state honorable mention, Chicago Tribune Scholar Athlete team and Victor J. Andrew Female Athlete of the Year. Her head coach was Jim Holba. She was also a letterwinner in volleyball during her sophomore year. Katie was a National Merit commended student and earned the Community Service Award for over 100 hours of service. She graduated first in her class of 530.

Her parents are Randy and Julie Christner. Her father, Randy played baseball at Cornell and her mother, Julie, played soccer at Walsh University. She has two younger siblings, Kelly and Travis. Her hobbies include hanging out with friends and family, coaching the Grissom Middle School softball team and reading. Her major is currently undecided.

Q: Who or what got you started in softball?
A: My dad played baseball in college, so he signed me up to play softball when I was old enough.

Q: At what age did you start playing softball?
A: I started playing in a recreation league when I was seven, and I started playing travel softball when I was nine.

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

Q: What is your dream job?
A: Owning a bakery in Ocean City, N.J. with my sister.

Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: She's the Man

Q: Who is your favorite athlete/athletic team?
A: Derek Jeter and the Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: Describe your dream vacation
A:.Going to Ocean City, New Jersey every summer with my cousins, Brett, Cole and Meagan.

Q: What is your favorite sports/softball memory?
A: Winning conference at my high school during sophomore year. We hadn't won a conference title since the mid-eighties.

Q: Do you have any pump up or pre-game music or rituals?
A: I like to listen to A Day to Remember and Blink 182 before games.

Q: What is the best part of playing softball at Wisconsin?
A: The fact that I know my teammates will always be there for me, no matter what.

Q: Where is your favorite spot on campus?
A: The grassy area by Elizabeth Waters that overlooks the lake.

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

Q: What is your favorite Crayola crayon color?
A: Sunset orange

Q: What TV show do you wish you could be in?
A: One Tree Hill

Q: If you could be any person for a day, who would you be?
A: Jenna Dewan (married to Channing Tatum)

Q: If you were stranded on an island and could only have three items with you, what would they be?
A: My sister, jugs of water and a boat to get away in (haha)

ON WISCONSIN