Nov. 6, 2013
In this week's Badger Blog, senior Mary Massei writes about the team's trip to Heartland Farm Sanctuary and impact volunteering has on the team and the community.
This past weekend our Badger softball team had the opportunity to volunteer at Heartland Farm Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping homeless farm animals in Wisconsin. Heartland also reaches out to the youth and works with young adults with disabilities. Their farm allows the youth to get away from their every day lives and assist in doing barn chores.
As a program, we thought it would be a great idea to take just a couple hours out of our Saturday afternoon to help prepare this organization for the winter months. By working together as a team, we helped clean up the barn, interact with the animals and build multiple chicken coops. Usually when you see the softball team covered in dirt it's from stealing bases but this time it was from putting hard work into manual labor helping out a good cause within the community.
Volunteering at Heartland showed me more than that we can handle tools, but it showed me that our program is capable of doing big things when we all invest and join together. For some of the girls it was their first time even stepping foot on a farm, but when assigned a task, everyone put all of their effort into it. We may have been out of our element and had to deal with some adversity, but that didn't stop us from seizing the moment and getting the job done.
When I see the team working hard doing volunteer work together, it reminds me of how blessed we are to be a part of this program. It may be just a couple hours out of our Saturday afternoons, but our services truly impact the community and organizations we help out.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The road to the 2013 NCAA tournament runs through Champaign, Ill., for many of the Big Ten's best as eight of the conference's top teams travel to the University of Illinois for the 2013 Big Ten tournament.
Follow the Badgers' journey as UWBadgers.com chronicles the team's every move from the dinner table to the locker room:
The 2013 Four Nations Cup is underway in Lake Placid, N.Y. as five players with Wisconsin ties will represent the United States during the week-long tournament.
Meghan Duggan, who won three national titles during her time at Wisconsin, was named captain of the U.S. squad yesterday. Duggan will serve as captain for the Four Nations Cup and during the rest of USA Hockey's Bring on the World Tour as the squad prepares for the 2014 Olympic Winter games in Sochi, Russia.
Joining Duggan on the U.S. squad is former Wisconsin netminder Jessie Vetter and forwards Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight. In addition, future UW player Annie Pankowski is on the team of 25 players that are vying for one of 21 spots on the U.S. Olympic Team roster, which will be announced on Jan. 1.
The United States opens the tournament tonight at 6:30 p.m. as the U.S. faces Sweden. Team Canada and Team Finland are also partaking in the tournament.
All contests during the 2013 Four Nations Cup can be watched online at FastHockey.com for a fee. The tournament wraps up on Saturday, Nov. 9.
Punters rarely get the credit they deserve, but nonetheless play an important role in any team's success. Luckily, the Badgers have a pretty good one on their side. In just two seasons, Wisconsin's Drew Meyer is already among the top statistical punters in school history, joining the likes of former Ray Guy Award winner Kevin Stemke, along with one of the heroes of the last Wisconsin-Iowa matchup, Brad Nortman.How did you get your start as a punter? Is it something you always wanted to do?
"I played soccer through fourth grade and then football started in fifth grade. Football was always my first love. I was the one kid in fifth grade who was able to kick the ball over the goalpost, so I started kicking then and ran with it. When I got into high school my coaches saw something in me and worked with me on everything from drops to steps and swinging up through the ball. They really helped me to develop into a punter and it ended up working out when I got the opportunity to come to Wisconsin."
Who are some of the punters you try to emulate?
"There are so many good ones that have come through Wisconsin. Guys like Kevin Stemke, Ken DeBauche, Brad Nortman, all of them. Brad was huge for me when I got here and really helped me during my first year. He really helped me with pooch punts. I had never really done that Australian-style, nose-down type of kick and Brad helped to introduce me to that."
As a punter, what defines success for you on the field?
"One of the biggest stats that we look for is net yards. It's not easy to have a big average, but net yards include hang time in the equation. You're helping your coverage team and you are helping your team as a whole with net yardage, which is the yardage from the line of scrimmage to where the ball ends up after the return. Because if you kick it into the end zone, or a guy has a big return, you have a big average, but you're not helping your team. So, net yardage is what you look for because that's how you're helping your team." You've employed a rugby-style punt at times this season. What are the advantages to that?
"The rugby punt is a great tool to have because if teams try to load you up, you can game plan for that or check to that. So, if a team comes out and looks like they are going to be coming off one way you can roll the other way. It changes the game a little bit, too. You are able to get the ball on the ground and have it bounce around a little bit, which can make it harder for the return man to handle. It's always great when you are punting into the wind. It just opens up the playbook a little more." What adjustments do you have to make to be able to execute a rugby punt?
"It's a little bit of a different leg swing. I kicked back in high school so it's not as difficult for me because I am used to that type of leg swing. It's kind of like a soccer swing. You have to swing up through the ball, but also have to make sure you're keeping it out there so you get a nice end-over-end rotation."
What do you like about the rugby punt?
"It's just a great strategy because it keeps the defense on their toes. They might be able to game plan on how to stop you in the regular formation, but the rugby punt gives us the ability to check out of that, which throws the defense off."
Brad Nortman had a crucial fake punt conversion in 2010, the last time Wisconsin and Iowa met. Would you welcome the opportunity to run a fake punt?
"It's always fun as a specialist when you have the opportunity to do something like that. It got Brad a lot publicity when he did it, which was funny because he is such a humble guy. But it's always fun. Anytime you see a team across the country run a fake, your eyes get big and it's always something you wish you'll get the chance to do in your career."
- Ryan Evans
In today's Badger Blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the importance of the off-season.
We just finished our fall season, winning two games against UW Parkside. It's been a beautiful fall in Madison. Softball is switching gears and starting individual workouts this week. Instead of practicing 20 hours a week, we drop down to six hours of lifting and conditioning and two hours of skill instruction. This is the critical part in the season, when the hardest working kids with the most passion can really improve.
Below are a few notes from our chalk talk with our team, preparing them for our winter workouts.
The road to the World Series starts here:
"You may not be able to do great things, but you can do small things with great love"-Mother Teresa
What's you plan for the fall? You have about 15 weeks, or 100 days until opening day at South Florida when we match up with No. 25 South Florida and No. 5 Florida on day one. How are you going to get to where you need to be as an individual? How are you going to get to where you need to be, to help the team? That's the bigger question. This isn't about you, and what you can and can't do, or what you're willing or unwilling to do, it's about your team. It's about the team needing you, and your special skills and talents. You were brought here for a reason. You've been given this amazing opportunity to be a Badger for a purpose. Are you too busy with school, your social life, and personal problems to give the team the focus and attention it deserves? Are you too busy to train?
"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe"- Abraham Lincoln
Are you passionately committed to this softball program? Are you the best player you can be right now? Games are not won or lost in February or May, they are won in October, November and December. You can't show up on game day and get a few extra swings off the small ball machine to magically hit better that day. You can't run a few extra sprints before the game and think you'll steal more bases today. You have to put the work in now, six days a week, every morning, from October through May to have the honor of playing in June. Championships are won and lost at 6 a.m., when most people sleep and someone wakes up to train.
The questions you have to ask yourselves are these; Are you in the best shape of your life? Do you have great speed, agility, and endurance? Are you strong? How's your hitting? Can you handle both sides of the plate? Can you hit change-ups? Do you understand and know the strike zone? Can you sacrifice or squeeze in any count? Do you have a great first step on defense? Do you take great angles? How's your transition? How's your arm strength? Are you confident with your backhand? Do you know your base coverage, bunt, slap and steal responsibilities? Can you run down balls over your head? Do you come through balls consistently and field the short hop? Can you pick balls at bases for forces and tag plays? Will you sacrifice your body to stop a bad throw? Can you dive and catch line drives and pop ups? How's your jump stealing? Do you accelerate into your slide? Can you slide head first? Can you hit your spots pitching? Do you have an effective first pitch, change up, and strike out pitch to both righties and lefties?
You need a specific plan to fix your deficiencies. You have to collaborate with your coaches, trainers and strength staff to work smart and work efficiently. Your team needs you. Create a calendar, come up with a plan, use the new indoor facility, and commit yourself to the teams' success. You have a little more than 100 days to prepare for the best season of your life.
It was a big weekend for the team as we swept the Lindenwood Lady Lions and continue on to our goal at the end of the season. We had three ladies with their first Badger goals this weekend, and I caught up with them to get their take on what that felt like.
"Scoring my first badger goal was an amazing feeling," freshman forward Mikayla Johnson said. "Hearing that horn go off and celebrating with my teammates was a memory I'll never forget."
The celebration following the goal was pretty unique, and sophomore forward Rachel Jones, who made a beautiful backdoor pass on the play to assist MJ's goal, may have been the most excited person in the building. It was cool to watch our team get excited for one another, and shows the unity and support that makes this group such a strong unit.
Another Badger scoring both Friday and Saturday night to record her first and second goal as a Badger was freshman defenseman Mellissa Channell. Channey and I go way back to our days playing in Detroit with Little Caesars and it was nice to see her get a few points this weekend. Both goals were nice shots from the point, and when asked about her goal, she has a funny story that will make this a memory much like MJ's.
"I remember right before going out that shift I asked Paul (Hickman) if I could use my backup stick, as many people always blame not scoring on the stick, so I just thought a chance would help," Channell said. "That next shift I get a beautiful pass from Bergy (senior defenseman Natalie Berg) and scored. It was an exhilarating experience, and what makes it better is that my mom was there to see it."
A nice goal, and a good team play that helped make this moment special for Channell, and we look forward to more contributions from her this season.
The third Badger with her first goal this weekend was sophomore forward Katy Harding. Her goal came late in the game Saturday night and was the result of a good forecheck all around, but she declined to comment and was unavailable for a face to face interview as she has been hiding in her apartment as a result of being swarmed by paparazzi since the goal.
Following the game, the team got together for a little innocent fun. We had a costume party with the team at senior Stefanie McKeough's house. As many know Stef has been sidelined due to injury for a few years now, but she is a great part of our team chemistry and is a mature leader in the locker room as she has been constantly supporting and guiding the team. The top costumes of the night were the Hanson brother's made up of Mikayla Johnson, Katarina Zgraja, and Stef McKeough and also the classy biker chicks, comprised of Alex Rigsby, Natalie Berg and Kelly Jaminski. Blayre Turnbull also had an awesome homemade cotton candy costume that she constructed out of a pillow and some spray paint. The freshmen were each a different color glow stick, which was a cute idea, but the Hanson brothers and biker ladies showed them up with more creativity in the final polls of best costume.
The get together was a relaxing and fun event to top off a successful weekend, as we had to quickly turn around and refocus to prepare for Ohio State. This is a big weekend for our team as Ohio State is ranked No. 10 in the country and will be a good test for us moving forward. This weekend is the last of games before a weekend off and we hope to finish the home stretch off with a couple wins. The ladies are focused in and preparing for this upcoming weekend and we hope to see you all out to cheer us on in this final leg of our long home stand. Tune in later this week for more updates and thoughts going in to this weekend.
Thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!
Let me start by offering a round of applause to UW and all the fans who were at the Kohl Center for Saturday's Red/White Scrimmage. That was one of the best turnouts I can remember for the men's basketball team's intrasquad game, and as scrimmages go, it was a high-quality show.
From the creative player introductions, where each of the Badgers had the chance to show off a move or two with a member of the UW Dance Team, to Vitto Brown's excellent performance of the national anthem, to the down-to-the-wire game itself, it was a fun way for Wisconsin hoops fans to spend a couple of hours.
As I wrote last week, the scrimmage included one of my favorite words -- free. It was a good weekend for that word. Last Friday, UW Athletics hosted its annual Kids Day at the Kohl Center, where young boys and girls had the chance to meet a number of student-athletes. As usual, the players seemed to enjoy the day as much as the youngsters.
The cost of attending sporting events is well documented, but we also should note that UW offers a number of low-cost or no-cost events. Hopefully you were able to take advantage of at least one of those outings last week. If not, hopefully you will in the future. After all, the price is right, and those who do attend have a great time.
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For this observer, November is when the Badgers' sports world kicks into high gear. Basketball season is here. After Wednesday night's exhibition game with UW-Platteville, Bo Ryan's Badgers set their sights on the regular season opener one week from Friday against St. John's.
The Badgers and the Red Storm will help break in the new Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.. It is a 3,200-seat facility with a parquet floor that might remind you of the old Boston Garden. A couple of weeks ago, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Minnesota Timberwolves played an exhibition game there.
This game counts, and it will be fun to see coach Steve Lavin again. During his days as an ESPN analyst, Lavin was the keynote speaker on two occasions for Bo's Coaches vs. Cancer gala in Madison. This season will be Lav's fourth as St. John's head coach.
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Now to football, where after two bye weeks in October, the stretch drive begins. In an odd schedule, the Badgers will play nearly half of their slate in November, starting this Saturday in Iowa City.
It is good to see Wisconsin crack the BCS rankings at No. 24. I am biased, but I believe they deserve a higher ranking. At least they broke into the Top 25, so I will spare you the complaining -- for now.
The Badgers have five games remaining, and while none features an opponent currently in the BCS rankings, this month will be anything but easy.
Iowa is coming off an emotionally-charged overtime victory against Northwestern and most expect a very physical battle this weekend. The Hawkeyes-Wildcats game had an old-school feel to it, and I would think it will be more of the same when the Badgers roll into town.
BYU is playing well, and it has a bye this week before visiting Camp Randall a week from Saturday. The Cougars have a very good dual-threat quarterback in Taysom Hill, who leads BYU in rushing and has accounted for 20 touchdowns so far this season.
On and on it goes. Minnesota is looking better and better. Indiana can score in bunches, and while Penn State had a long Saturday night in Columbus, the Nittany Lions can be a dangerous team. Just ask Michigan.
The hectic month of November is about to begin. Yes, it can be crazy, and it also has a chance to be special.
I am looking forward to it. I am guessing you are as well.
It's game day here in Madison and the girls are excited for another weekend to get better. We face off against Lindenwood tonight at 7 p.m. and tomorrow at 2 p.m. The games are an opportunity for us to play some games out of conference and to see some new competition other than the typical WCHA play that we are accustomed to.
"Lindenwood will be a good test for us to see how far we can push ourselves even though they aren't a typical rival," junior forward Katy Josephs said. "The weekend will be fun to keep building chemistry in our lines and as a team."
Fellow forward, and freshman Mikayla Johnson had similar comments about the upcoming series.
"I am excited for our team to get another weekend not only to play at home but to get better and grow as a team," Johnson said. "Every weekend brings something new and I'm looking forward to what this weekend has to bring."
The team as a whole is looking forward to the games this weekend as they will be yet another test of how we have gotten better from last weekend. We use each week as time to learn from previous games and push ourselves to make sure we are always moving forward on the journey to our ultimate goal. The team has done a great job of staying focused this week and we are looking forward to hitting the ice for another series of games at home. We hope to see all of our fans out at LaBahn Arena this weekend.
Thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!
Running back Corey Clement has burst onto the scene as a true freshman for the Badgers. He already has a pair of 100-yard games and five touchdowns on the ground to go along with a Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor. With his string of strong early season performances, the Glassboro, N.J., native appears well-equipped to carry on Wisconsin's proud tradition of elite runners.
Being from New Jersey, what made Wisconsin the right fit for you?
"The football tradition here, especially the tradition of running backs at Wisconsin. In high school we were all about downhill (running) and coming out of Power-I and that's what Wisconsin is known for, as well, which is what drew me here. UW has a great business school, as well, which I was attracted to. Both school and football made it a great package for me. It's a great blessing to be part of the Badgers now." What's your relationship like with fellow New Jersey native Ron Dayne?
"He has been a great connection for me since day one. I met Ron before I came to Wisconsin, actually. He's been showing me the ins and outs of why I should come here, the benefits of here compared to other schools and what to look for, basically."
What have you been able to learn from James White and Melvin Gordon?
"A lot of patience within the hole. They are a great film study. We always study film together. It's all about making defenders miss, and James and Melvin both do a great job of that. I just want to fall in behind them and try to match them, but try to compete as well."
What's the competition like between you three?
"It is very competitive. Within our running back room and every day in practice we have to go out and try to be better than the next back, because if you're not going to push one another, then you'll be stuck in the same place as where you started." What do you think makes the two-back system successful at Wisconsin?
"It all starts in practice. Coach (Thomas) Hammock always says that what you put out in practice is what you put out on the field. James and Melvin both do a great job of acting like it's a game every day in practice and that's the example that I want to follow."
What has Coach Hammock been working with you on this season?
"Everything, because I am not a perfect back. He is going to try and correct any flaw that he sees within me. It's all about getting vertical and making the right cuts. It's all about getting better each week. Coach Hammock and I actually joke a lot and everyone jokes a lot. It's all about love in the running back room."Did you expect to play right away as a freshman this season?
"That was my main goal. I want to get in and show what I can do. I don't want to waste any time. My redshirt is burned up, but I want to keep it moving and show that I didn't take a redshirt year for a reason." What has the transition been like from high school to college football?
"It all started back at home. I started running a lot of miles to get some wind under my belt. Still, though, when I got here I still wasn't really into college football speed because it moves a lot faster and I had to get adjusted. Week one and week two of camp were probably my roughest weeks, but as week three kicked in and towards the end of camp, I got into the groove of things. It's all about a mental process."- Ryan Evans
Ready or not -- and I would guess most of you are more than ready -- another season of Wisconsin basketball is about to begin.
This Saturday, while the football team enjoys its second bye of the month, the men's basketball team will have its annual Red/White Scrimmage. Tip time at the Kohl Center is 5 p.m., and admission is one of my favorite words -- free. (Media motto: "If it's free, it's for me. I'll take three.")
Once again, it figures to be an interesting season for Bo Ryan's group. While an August trip to Canada allowed the team to get a jump start on the season, Saturday's run will mark the first opportunity for most fans to get an up-close look at the Badgers, including the six new faces in the program.
There are minutes to be had in the front court, and everyone is eager to see the next step in Frank Kaminsky's growth, as well as the development of rookies Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown.
How much this first-year class will contribute right away remains to be seen, but based on some very early observations, both mine and others, this will be enjoyable bunch to watch and get to know.
Let me put it another way -- Ryan and his staff did not go out and recruit a class of wallflowers. At last week's Steak Fry, Assistant Director of Athletic Communications Patrick Herb was quizzing seniors Ben Brust and Zach Bohannon on the newbies. When they told the crowd that Brown can carry a tune, the entire team urged him to give a little sample. Young Vitto obliged, and yes, he can sing.
Actually, the man stole the show.
Herb accurately pointed out that "women's hearts are melting."
Yeah, I know that has nothing to do with understanding what Ryan wants done on the floor, but it was a fun moment at a preseason function.
It is hard to believe that this is the 13th year for Bo Ryan as the Badgers' head coach. Time flies when your team is winning most of its games, right? For the good times to continue, it is a good guess that Ryan and his staff will be counting on veterans such as Ben Brust, Traevon Jackson and the return of Josh Gasser to help lead the way.
There is also no doubt that defenses will be dialed in to sophomore Sam Dekker. As impressive as he was last year, keep in mind he averaged just a bit more than 22 minutes of playing time per game. I would imagine there is a decent chance his workload will increase this season.
Next Wednesday, the Badgers host UW-Platteville and then the regular season begins. In what is an aggressive non-conference schedule, the Badgers will jump right into the deep end of the pool. They open with St. John's in Sioux Falls, S.D. Four days later, Wisconsin has its home opener with Florida.
So much for easing into the season.
Most believe the Big Ten will again be a very strong conference. Perhaps the best in the nation. The good news is the Badgers have been good enough for long enough that they have earned nationwide respect.
When in doubt, many just assume they will be very good -- again.
Late Saturday afternoon is your chance to get a sneak peek at what this year's Badgers have to offer.