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Packer's Perspective: Back to Work

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Hey Badger Fans,

Thank you to all who came out and supported us this weekend! The atmosphere was great, and the team thrives when the home crowd gets involved. Saturdays game was a tough loss, but the team used our mistakes from the game to learn and build for Sunday. It was tough when North Dakota came out and got a quick goal again, but the team rallied together as one and played our hearts out, taking 3 points away from the weekend and finishing on a high note. There was a lot to learn from overall after the weekend, but we also did a number of things very well as a team. Monday was a much needed day off after the grueling weekend and physical series, and all the ladies took full advantage of the extra recovery.

Monday night we gathered as a team at LaBahn, and had a little 101 clinic. There were about 100 kids that showed up for the clinic, and it was a great way to give back to a community that supports us throughout the season. We spent an hour on the ice, teaching and playing around with the little kids, and then we headed up to the concourse of the arena to sign some autographs and eat some pizza with the skaters. The whole event lasted a little over two hours, and it was a huge success. We are grateful to all those who showed up to support our organization and hope all the participants enjoyed being little Badgers for the day.

Tuesday was back to work, as we had film, practice, and lift. We reviewed the game from Sunday, looking at times when we had a few breakdowns, and also focusing on the things we did well and need to continue to execute in order to find success this season. We then hit the ice for a quick practice to work on skill and focus on what we need to do this weekend, and then headed down to the weight room for a quick workout to keep in shape. After workout, the team enjoyed a nice meal, and a few of us headed to a local middle school to visit with a fourth grade classroom.

While visiting with the fourth graders, we talked about our experiences as young athletes, our journey to the University of Wisconsin, and then answered a number of varying questions from our favorite NHL team to our favorite movie or color. The kids were awesome, and certainly came prepared with a number of questions to ask. The visit with the fourth graders was finished with a quick autograph session, before we headed home. The visit to the elementary school was extra special for senior goaltender Ilana Friedman, who attended that middle school when she was younger. Later tonight, a number of ladies will be heading to the local senior home to visit with some elderly members of the community. I am always amazed at the willingness of my teammates to give back in the community whenever they get a chance, especially with the highly demanding lifestyle they live.

The journey for our team continues this weekend as we head up to Bemidji to play on the road. Check back in later this week for emotions from players about the upcoming games, and a recap of our journey to Northern Minnesota. Until next time, thanks for reading, and On Wisconsin!!

Badger Blog: Most Improved

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In today's blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the Badgers' 2014 resolution to get better every day. 

Dreamers wish they were the best player, while doers work to get better every day. #MIP #Badgersoftball2014

As we look to 2014, so many people talk about wanting to be the best this New Year. They want to be the best team, player, company or CEO. Who doesn't want to win, accomplish and achieve? Here in Madison, we're shifting our goals for 2014. Instead of worrying about being the best, why not focus on being better? Isn't that what life is all about, getting better? When we get caught up in being number one, we lose focus to the periphery.  Does it really matter what's going on all around us? Wouldn't we be better suited being the best version of ourselves, constantly growing, climbing and making progress?

For the Badger softball team, 2014 really needs to be about improvement. Our schedule is so challenging, that we certainly can't walk out from the snow to the dirt in February and arrive. It's a journey, and a progression. Hopefully we'll have the opportunity to not only play Florida, Texas A&M, Arizona State, Washington and Arizona, early, but also again late in the season. We all know it's not where you start, but where you finish. Each season's a new opportunity to rewrite the history books and start a new legacy.

At what point did most improved became a dirty word? Everyone wants to be the most valuable player, not the most improved player. Fans look at the MIP as a consolation trophy, like being named best personality instead of homecoming queen. Sure being the MVP is prestigious, but it's also limiting. There's only a handful of MVP's in the country, but the lions-share of teams and programs are made of hard-working, blue-collar athletes that are on the path to improvement. In life, our greatest feelings of pride and accomplishment come not from the trophy, but from the climb. Improvement really is empowerment, it factors in who you are, where you came from, the adversity and inequality of where you started, ultimately measuring how far you've come.

Talking about improvement forces you to take a good, hard look at the past, understanding who you are, and where you came from. Improvement doesn't come from ignoring, or running from your origins, but rather from understanding, and accepting your heritage. The imperfection of your past is beautiful, because it's part of who you are, it helped you to arrive in the amazing place you are today with empathy and gratitude. Some programs and people have always had success. But if your past was different, challenging and checkered, you can always make strides. There's a lot of beauty in the struggle. Every climber knows that the path of improvement is paved with hundreds of people who loved, cared, worked hard and laid the groundwork for your journey.  

So, for our 2014 resolution, Wisconsin softball doesn't want just to be the best team in the Big Ten, or the country, we want to grow and improve as a program, and as people. Of course the Badgers want to win the Big Ten. It's every student-athlete's dream to say they were part of a Big Ten championship program. Yet reality, history, and a lack of legacy are stacked against us. We'll play 23 Big Ten conference games against eight B1G teams this spring. We'll see Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Purdue at home, and Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern and Penn State on the road. Wisconsin has 95 wins in 281 career games against those teams, that's a .338 winning percentage. We've got our work cut out. Yet we're blessed with 20 student-athletes in the Badger softball family that can win most improved every day, every practice and every game this season. The journey starts Monday! #MIP  

Badgers among best of BCS era

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The Bowl Championship Series era came to a close Monday with the crowning of Florida State in the 16th and final BCS National Championship Game. Marked by both compelling matchups and controversy, opinions vary as to what the BCS' legacy will be. No matter what history chooses to reflect, however, the one undeniable truth about the BCS is that it forever changed college football by taking the sport to new levels of popularity nationwide. 

Just as the postseason format will leave a lasting impact on the sport it helped to grow, Wisconsin teams will always be among the lasting images of the BCS era, a time in which the sport's growth coincided with the growth of the Badgers into one of the nation's premier programs.

Wisconsin proved to be one of the nation's most successful teams during the BCS' hold on the college football postseason. Here's a look at why:

- Wisconsin appeared in the Rose Bowl five times in the BCS era, making UW one of just 11 teams to play in at least five BCS bowl games

The Badgers went 146-61 (.705) overall in the BCS era, giving them the 13th-best win percentage in the nation over that span

Among Big Ten teams, only Ohio State had more wins (161) and a better win percentage (.793) than Wiscosnin during the BCS era

- UW's 146 wins were the 12th-most of any team in the BCS era

- The Badgers were ranked in 72 of the 125 BCS standings, tied for the 11th-most appearances of any team in the nation

- From 2004 to 2006, the Badgers appeared in the BCS standings for 24 consecutive weeks

- UW ranked as high as fifth in the BCS standings, rising to No. 5 in consecutive weeks in 2004 (Nov. 1, Nov. 8) and 2010 (Nov. 28, Dec. 5)

- Ron Dayne holds the record for rushing yards in a BCS bowl with his 246 vs. UCLA in the 1999 Rose Bowl

- Dayne tied for the record for most rushing touchdowns in a BCS bowl with the four he scored on UCLA in the 1999 Rose Bowl

- Jared Abbrederis owns the record for all-purpose yards in a BCS bowl with 346 (119 receiving, 201 kickoff return, 26 punt return) vs. Oregon in the 2012 Rose Bowl

- Montee Ball became the first player to rush for 100 yards three times in the Rose Bowl and the first to score a touchdown in three different Rose Bowls

With college football set to move on and the debut of the College Football Playoff coming at the end of the 2014 season, it's an exciting time for the sport. Hopefully, the playoff can prove to be as exciting - and successful - for Wisconsin as the BCS era. 

The Voice: Saying goodbye (good riddance?) to the BCS

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With Florida State's dramatic win against Auburn on Monday night, we bid farewell to the BCS era. Some will say goodbye, while many others will say good riddance.

Whatever the case, starting next season college football moves into its next phase -- the College Football Playoff. While the now-departed method created some classic championship games, not to mention a number of other thrilling BCS bowls, the whole concept of the Bowl Championship Series has been a source of great debate, and often times, harsh criticism.

As I -- and many others -- have previously stated, the BCS was an imperfect system, but it was far better than what preceded it. Gone are the days of a top-ranked team sealing its national title by beating a No. 14-ranked squad in its bowl game.

The system also set up a number of wildly entertaining matchups, such as Boise State's stunning victory against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. This year's other BCS games were fairly decent, too, from underdog Central Florida putting the hammer down on Baylor, to Michigan State's 24-20 victory against Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Ohio State-Clemson in the Orange, and Oklahoma-Alabama in the Sugar Bowl were not bad games, either.

I think part of the frustration of the BCS is that many of us struggled to fully understand how it worked.

We did not know what made up most of the computer rankings. We were easily confused on what a team had to do to qualify for consideration to one of the "big boy" bowls. A top-14 finish? A top-16 for a non-AQ conference if it finished ahead of lowest-rated champ from an AQ conference? Otherwise, a non-AQ had to be in the top 12? Huh? What is a non-AQ? And Notre Dame has its own sets of rules? 

What?

As sports fans, we tend to like things to be a bit more simple, and hopefully the College Football Playoff is a step closer in that direction.

Still, in today's world, many of us will find something to be unhappy about, and we will have multiple platforms where we can vent to our heart's delight.

It is anything but a stretch to predict that the biggest outcry will come from those who want more than four teams in the playoff. However, executive director Bill Hancock repeatedly has said the four-team playoff will be in place for the next 12 years, so we probably would be wise to get used to it. Those who help run college football are very protective about the importance of the regular season. They are in no hurry to run the risk of hurting high-stakes games in October.

We also should remember that there will be two more top-end bowls, the Cotton and the Chick-fil-A. Part of the selection committee's job will be to place teams in those games, as those sites will join the rotation for the semifinal round on New Year's Eve 2016.

Whether the College Football Playoff will be more satisfying than the BCS remains to be seen. I believe it will. Yes, the team that ends up fifth in eyes of the committee will be very upset. So is the basketball squad that just misses the cut to the 68-team NCAA tournament. 

Overall, I would claim the BCS worked reasonably well. If nothing else, it gave college football fans something to talk about every week of the season.

Starting next season, we can all try to figure out who will play in those semifinal games at the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, with the winners meeting in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12, 2015.

It figures to be anything but dull.

Packer's Perspective: The Badgers Behind the Masks

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Hey Badger fans! Today's post is a little different. Usually, I bring to you the upcoming anticipation of games, post game reactions, and the activities we are involved in daily throughout the community. Although this post will include some of our daily interactions in the community, it is more of a story. The story behind the Wisconsin women's hockey team, and the backgrounds that bring this group together to create a family that is stronger than any obstacle we face together. 

This story does not start in any specific location, it has no general direction, and most of the quotes and information will remain anonymous out of respect for the privacy of my teammates, although at times, some individuals are named. The purpose of this story is to show the fans of the Wisconsin women's hockey team that the individuals who make up this nationally ranked program, are not all that different from anyone else in the community. We show up to the rink each day, leave our lives at the door, and for three hours we interact as athletes; however, when the lights dim and we change back into our street clothes, my teammates and I venture back out into the real world, and face realities that are often hard to cope with. Through the spotlighting of my team in this blog, I will work to show that the talents of my teammates on the ice are far less impressive than their courage in the outside world, and that if the phenomenal athletes I suit up next to each day can use their setbacks to propel them to success, perhaps we can inspire our followers and fans can do the same.

Injuries are a setback in any environment. People are injured in the work force, in daily activity, and like many athletes on the team, in athletic competition. Fans often see players get hurt. They read about injury reports, or see a player walking around with a cast or bag of ice; however, what the fans do not see is the hard work and mental determination it takes for these players to get back on the ice. Ranging from broken bones, to stitches, to major reconstructive surgeries, the Badgers are made up of relentless women who dedicate their lives to a sport they are passionate about. 

"You can never ask why me. Once you start asking yourself that and weighing through all the possibilities, that is time wasted that you could have used to get better and get back with the team." 

One player that stands out for her battle with injuries is senior defenseman Stef McKeough. Many have read her story and know that Stef has been sidelined because of a concussion, but my focus is not on her injury. My focus is on Stef as a teammate, and as a compassionate individual who has had her athletic career halted because of a devastating injury, yet shows up for every home game to support her team. She spends hours and hours a day each week in the training room. Hours of work that people never see to try and get back to where she once was and to try to continue living life as a normal college student. 

As a former roommate, and current teammate of Stef McKeough, I can honestly say I have never met a more selfless individual. I watched her battle with her injury last year, and I think that is one of the toughest things I have had to stand by and watch a teammate go through. Someone so passionate and caring for others, with no control over what was going on in her own life. Through her struggles, I learned that the outlook on a situation is everything, and it was incredible to see someone in such a negative spot maintain such a positive composure for those around her. She has taught me, and our entire team, the true meaning of being a good teammate. Her passion for the game of hockey was always obvious, but long after being stuck in the bleachers, she continues to give back and support her team no matter what the circumstance. 

Stef is a member of the Wisconsin team that does not suit up with us on a daily basis, but gives back in an invaluable way with her support and constant encouragement. She always pats us on the back on the way to the ice, and is always giving insight between periods. She follows the team on the road, and offers positive feedback when we find ourselves frustrated. Stef McKeough is the unsung hero within our locker room, a teammate who receives little credit for the unrecognized support she provides. Like Stef, numerous of my teammates have had surgeries and injuries that have left them out for any given period of time. 

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The hours these ladies put in to get healthy are moments no fan ever sees, but are of utmost importance when describing the character and commitment that makes up a large chunk of the team's overall personality. In the four years that I have been at Wisconsin I have had my fair share of injuries, and had to rehab to battle my way back into the lineup, but none of these injuries compare to some of the battles I have watched my teammates fight in their own lives away from the rink.

Another area of life discovered when talking with my teammates and getting to know them over the years is something I will call personal hardship. In the words of one of my teammates: "I consider myself really lucky. There are going to be obstacles in your life and you have to overcome them. God has a plan for all of us". 

The personal hardship category is not to put our team in a negative spotlight or for fans to get the idea that this team is composed of a group of misfortunate and heartbroken women; but rather to point out to our fans the fact that this is a team of renowned athletes who work just as hard off the ice as they do on it in order to be the presentable and well rounded women they are today. 

"Being surrounded by such a great group of people everyday is a blessing and makes you realize how special what we have here is." 

The support system our team provides one another is something that words cannot describe. To have 24 people within two miles of you who will be there at any hour of the day for any given reason is something so rare and we are all lucky and blessed to have such compassionate individuals who put others before themselves. 

In fifth grade, a current Badger found out her mother had been diagnosed with cancer, only to learn two weeks later that her father had been diagnosed as well. 

"It was extremely difficult at the time, you learn not to complain about the little things and to value opportunities afforded to you. It's difficult to see other teammates go through it with their families. I think about it daily especially because it's so common, you hear about it more often, but also just because it affected me so heavily at such a young age." 

At age 15, another teammate lost her mother after a 17-month battle with cancer. 

"It sucked, I don't think at any point in your life losing a family member is ever easy, but it was hard being a young teenage girl. I have a lot of other people in my life who have stepped in and filled in a sort of motherly role and helped me out along the way. Some days are harder than others for instance the anniversary of her death, her birthday, and other holidays. People are aware that I find those days harder than most. I am fortunate to have formed some life long friendships with some of my current teammates as well as teammates from other teams I have played on in the past. It is easy for me to talk to those people about anything, including the loss of my mom. I am extremely grateful to be able to play a sport with teammates who are always willing to lend me a shoulder to lean on." 

These, among other difficulties teammates would rather not have shared, are some of the hardships and realities my fellow teammates have overcome in life before and during their Badger careers. The struggle of watching family members battle illness, and the tragedy of dealing with loss are areas of life that the Badger team is well acquainted with. Through these struggles, the women that make up our team have emerged as strong individuals, propelling them to success on the ice and in various outlets of life. The determined nature of my teammates has enabled a number of them to share their experience with others, and also enabled them to appreciate life in a new way, and become a supportive teammate for those around them.

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One final area of life that I wish to unveil about the Wisconsin women's hockey team is in regard to our families. The parents, siblings, and grandparents who are not pictured in highlight films, or typically mentioned in newspaper articles, but are the reason every one of us is where we are today. 

"Just the commitment and support of my family: driving me an hour to and from the rink every day of the week for practice and games, and for allowing me to leave home at the age of 14 to attend a boarding school in another state to pursue my hockey career. Times haven't always been easy financially but they always came through and made ends meet. I could not ask for a more supportive and loving family and I'm very fortunate to have so many people that believe in me and are willing to let me pursue my dreams." 

Family is something that is extremely important in the eyes of my teammates and I.  As previously discussed, we have players who have watched as family members struggle with their health, and also we have players with family members actively serving in the military, players who families struggle to make financial ends meet, and individuals who rarely get to return home except for a few days a year because of distance and commute. There are friendships made on our team that will last a lifetime, long after we hang up our skates for the last time. The overall personality and family that has emerged in our locker room as a result of the shaping of our families back home is remarkable. 

Family is an area of life for the Badgers that is beyond any material value. The financial commitment and the time consuming schedule of the sport our parents allowed us to play at a young age is often difficult for families, but our parents made it work, and because of their sacrifice every one of us is where we are today. Without the love and support of our families none of this would be possible, but also the faith our families had in us from the start. 

Becoming a Division I athlete is no easy task, and that is not to put my teammates or myself on a pedestal and say no common individual can reach this stage, but it is a dream thousands of athletes of various sports have, and is a grueling competition to achieve that final goal. Our families believed in us. They enabled us to have the resources to chase our dreams, and supported us as we failed and succeeded along the way. The parents and support from back home is something that rarely receives credit on any stage of notoriety, but on behalf of my teammates: Thank you to all the parents, siblings, loved ones, and fans who have supported us along the way. The greatest play of any of our careers came the day you made the commitment to allow us to pursue our dreams.

A number of difficult times have been previously mentioned, but as the cliché saying goes, it's the hard days that make the good ones better. The Wisconsin team no doubt has days where someone comes to the rink and finds it difficult to smile because its been a rough go, but for the most part, our lives are filled with days where there are nothing but smiles in the room. The camaraderie and character of the various individuals makes for a great atmosphere, and it is something that I have been fortunate enough to have been a part of and experience first hand for the last four years. 

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As a member of the team, I have met people who have changed my life forever and have learned more about life that I ever could about hockey. My teammates are some of the kindest and most compassionate individuals I have ever encountered, and that is often unseen from the other side of the glass. In one word, to sum up my team, I would say the Wisconsin women's hockey team is relentless. Facing every battle, on and off the ice, with the tenacity and determination that we are always stronger than anything that can happen to us in this life. 

My teammates have taught me lessons I never thought I could learn through my college hockey experience, and it is my hope that through the sharing of some of these stories that the fans will see these women in a new light. I hope after reading this account that fans see them not only as Badger student-athletes but also as strong role models in the community and strong leaders in the future. Like all people in this world, members of this team have deep histories that make up the people they are today. My teammates, no matter where they come from or what they have been through, are outstanding examples of what hard work and the pursuit of a dream can amount to. I hope you enjoyed reading about my team as much as I enjoyed sharing this small piece of our story, and we hope to see you out at LaBahn as we continue on this season in search of our ultimate goal. 

Until next time, thanks for reading, and On Wisconsin!

-Madison Packer

Packer's Perspective: Back from St. Cloud

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Hey Badger fans! Another successful weekend on the road for the team as we picked up six points before heading back to Madison. The weekend was a rocky start in the first few shifts of Friday's game as players tried to get a feel back for game pace and back in the swing of conference competition. The team picked it up by the second period and came away with a 3-1 victory.

 Saturday night was a different story as we came out fast from the start and got an early lead, pushing the team to a 4-0 victory over the Huskies. Saturday's game was much better for the team as we improved vastly from Friday to Saturday and settled back into our comfort zone.

The team took the day off Sunday after returning home late Saturday night, but was right back to work Monday morning. The upcoming series against North Dakota is the most important series of the season thus far, and we know all that is on the line as far as rankings both in the WCHA and on the national stage.

The team has an extra day to go over systems with the games this weekend falling on Saturday and Sunday and this is something we look forward to taking full advantage of. The team is looking better and better each day as we continue on our journey, and we look forward to the games this weekend as a test of where we stand and how far we have come since we last met North Dakota up in Grand Forks.

Tune in later this week for more from the Badger squad!

Thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!

 - Madison 

Packer's Perspective: New Year, New Energy

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It's that time again Badger fans, we are on the road and gearing up for tonight's game against St. Cloud State. The team left Madison yesterday afternoon and bused up to Minnesota. We arrived and had a short team practice to review systems and get the bus legs out, before checking into the hotel and having a team meal. This morning we had a typical skate around that consisted of the usual drills and games a rebound, before heading back to the hotel yet again for a little down time and pre-game meal. The game is set for 7 p.m. tonight, and the ladies know that the first game back after a long break is highly important on a number of levels.

"We are all super excited to get back into league play after having almost a month off since our last game," junior forward Blayre Turnbull said. "These games will definitely be a challenge for us. Playing against a hardworking team like St. Cloud on a big ice sheet will be an exciting way to kick off the new year. We are hoping to play these games with the same intensity and tenacity that we finished 2013 off with. It is going to be very important that we play smart, simple, and within the systems we have been practicing and playing with all season."

Junior forward Brittany Ammerman had similar thoughts and emotions going into tonight's game. 

"I think everyone is feeling refreshed from our break and is excited to be back at it for the second half of the season," Ammerman said. "We are very excited to be playing a game tonight because it's been almost a month off from games. The being said I am looking forward to our team's energy tonight. In terms of what we need to focus on in the beginning of tonight's game, I think positive energy, simple plays, and short shifts will be key to us getting back into the swing of things for this second half of the season."

The team is well rested and ready to go to work tonight on the road. We have prepared the last couple weeks to make sure we are back in game shape, and know the second half of the season is highly important if we want to reach our ultimate goal at the end of the year. The ladies are excited to be back on the ice, and looking forward to the first game back on the road.

 A little added emphasis for a win tonight is to give senior goaltender Alex Rigsby a road victory on her birthday. She's 22 today, and the victory would certainly make for a great birthday treat as she spends the day away from home. The puck drops in St. Cloud tonight at 7 p.m. Be sure to tune in and cheer the team on as we continue our journey to the finish line. 

Thanks for reading, On Wisconsin!

-Madison Packer

The Voice: New-look Badgers already taking shape

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If there is one bit of wisdom I have been able to gather through the years, it is that there really is no such thing as an offseason for coaches.

It is an interesting dynamic. There is extreme focus on the present. There is trying to find a way to win the next game. How to get a certain player to make the next step in his development. And of course, there is always an eye to the future, as recruiting season seemingly never ends.

Such is the case for Badgers head man Gary Andersen, as he and his staff conclude their first season together in Madison.

On the field, this was a good team. Yes, there were missed opportunities. In each of the four losses, players, coaches and fans can go crazy playing the game of "coulda, shoulda."  Clearly, that was the case in this week's Capital One Bowl setback to South Carolina. A key penalty. A missed fourth and short. Not getting a stop when momentum was on your side. The kind of mistakes that will haunt you against a top-flight opponent.

The result hurts, but the time to move on comes quickly. 

"It's going to be good to take a big, deep breath and get back and get started again," Andersen said. 

That is not to say the senior class -- or this team general -- will be forgotten anytime soon.

On his radio show two days before the bowl game, I asked the UW coach whether the job has been everything he had imagined. His answer is what any Badgers fan would hope to hear.

"These kids on this team have made me a better person," he said. "I feel like I am a better coach because I was able to be around them.

"It is a tremendous community. Hopefully we will be able to keep this coaching staff together and recruit like crazy because we have a good foundation built. We are blessed and lucky to be here every day, and we are excited about the future."

In about one month, the Badgers will introduce another recruiting class. With such a big senior class moving on, there will be some interesting position battles, and perhaps some of the newbies will be in the mix. 

It will be fun to track the progress of young returning players such as Corey Clement, Sojourn Shelton and Leon Jacobs, as well as redshirts Alec James and Chikwe Obasih, just to name a few.

Next season starts quickly, as in nearly right away. Soon enough, the team will begin its winter conditioning. Who will make up the next group of leaders? When asked that question on Monday, Chris Borland suggested defensive lineman Warren Herring and linebacker Derek Landisch could be a couple of strong candidates.

Andersen talked about how those players who used to sit in the third and fourth rows at team meetings would now move to the front of the room. It is their time, be they seniors or other veteran players, to make the 2014 Badgers their team.

On a personal note, and I believe I speak for many, I want to thank the seniors for giving fans many terrific memories, both on the field and in the community. This is a group that defines what is good about college athletics. Maybe I have said much the same about previous groups. If so, I take great pleasure in being redundant.

Perhaps part of what has Andersen excited about the future is that the program seems to be loaded with young men who understand the Wisconsin formula -- being the right athletic, academic and social fit.

My guess is the returning Badgers have learned a lot from the Class of 2013. The time to put those lessons to use has arrived.

The first quarter of the 2014 season is about to begin. 

Packer's Perspective: Heading Into the New Year

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Hey Badger Fans-

The time is here! We have returned back to campus and hit the ice once again, continuing on our journey to the finish line. Break was not nearly long enough, and flew by, but everyone is in agreement that it was nice to get away and spend time with loved ones over the holidays. Most of the team left campus back sometime between the 17th and the 20th of December and then we all returned by the 27th of December in order to take part in practice later that day. The break was good, and a little time away from the rink is always healthy. 

The team has returned to campus and been grinding each day, from lift, to cardio, to on ice sessions themselves, everyone is pushing hard and focused on continuing to pursue our team goal. While hockey is what brings the fans and the followers, the players are ordinary individuals just like the rest. We hang out with family members, spend time with friends, and yes, some of us still write letters to Santa (Sydney McKibbon). Upon returning to campus, I asked my teammates to list their favorite gift or moment of this Christmas season (Hanukah for senior goaltender Ilana Friedman), and here is what we came up with. Also; I have included some of the nicknames we go by, to better know the ladies! Enjoy!

#1 Jorie Walters- A ninja blender
#2 Melissa Channel (Chan)- A Garth Brooks CD set and some lulu lemon clothes
#3 Jenny Ryan- Fondue with my family for Christmas dinner...yummm!
#5 Stef McKeough- Ketchup chips, and also making the kiss cam at the Sens hockey game with my brother.
#6 Courtney Burke (@courty6)- A North Face jacket
#7 Kelly Jaminski (Jammer)- A new pair of comfy slippers
#8 Katy Harding (Stone)- Taking a trip to Hawaii with my family
#9 Molly Doner- Finally having all five of my siblings and I home together
#10 Brittany Ammerman (Brit)- Surprising my mom with the Linus bike she has always wanted
#11 Sydney McKibbon (Syd)- Skating outdoors at Lake Louise 
#12 Katy Josephs (Kath)- Skating on the outdoor rink with my brothers
#13 Katarina Zgraja (Z)- A delicious home cooked turkey dinner
#14 Madison Packer (Pack)- Bowling with my family in Aspen and skating with a group of four and five year olds at the local rink
#16 Sarah Nurse- Being with all my family
#17 Blayre Turnbull- A new pair of fuzzy socks
#20 Mikayla Johnson (MJ)- A basket to hold all my blankets
#23 Kim Drake- Decorating the Christmas tree
#24 Karley Sylvester (Carlos)- A new Sonic Care toothbrush and taking a trip to New York to visit my boyfriend...he's in the NHL, Brock Nelson, look him up.
#25 Erika Sowchuk (Sowwww)- A new pair of beats
#27 Rachel Jones (Jonesie)- A shiny new front tooth
#28 Natalie Berg (Bergie)- My Barbie jeep, it does great on the snowy Wisco roads
#30 Ann-Renee Desbiens- Having all my siblings and nephews home
#31 Ilana Friedman (Ils)- Spending time with my boyfriend on the football team
#33 Alex Rigsby (Rigs)- Magic bullet blender...I like my smoothies (she really does!!)

There you have it! All the favorite gifts and moments from the Badgers holiday season, but now it's back to work. We have six practices under our belt and we are gearing up to head to St. Cloud to start the second leg of the season. The second half of the year is a fresh start and a new chapter for us, as we look to make strides to continue getting better and focusing on reaching our ultimate goal. Tune in later this week for a full recap on practices and the trip to St. Cloud, and thoughts from players on what they look forward to moving into the first game of 2014. From the entire Badger team we wish you a safe and happy New Year and look forward to playing in front of our home crowd in 2014! 

Until next time, thanks for reading, and On Wisconsin!

-Madison Packer

Badgers fans fire up at pep rally

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Badgers fans turned out in force Tuesday to fire up for the Capital One Bowl at the team's official pep rally at Pointe Orlando. They were treated to comments from seniors Jared Abbrederis, Chris Borland and James White, along with head coach Gary Andersen, director of athletics Barry Alvarez, Badgers legend Ron Dayne and UW-Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank. The UW Marching Band wrapped things up with a 30-minute performance that included all the usual fan favorites, from the Bud Song to Varsity.

- Photos: Capital One Bowl Pep Rally

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ON WISCONSIN