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Women's rowing holds reunion

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Forty three former Badger rowers spent part of their Fourth of July weekend in Madison reminiscing with old friends. What began as a celebration of the 1975 and 1986 national championship teams turned into a reunion for everyone who was on a women's rowing team in the 1970s and 80s.

Friday night everyone met on the Memorial Union terrace for an evening of socializing and rekindling friendships. Saturday morning the group went to the Porter Boathouse. Built in 2005, many of them had not seen the new building. They had a chance to try out the new rowing tanks, relive some bad memories on the ergometer and check out the impressive lineup of boats in the boat bay.

Saturday night everyone went to another new building on campus, the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Six Olympians were in attendance, and Kris Thorsness, Carie Graves, Carol Feeney and Cindy Eckert Rusher showed off their Olympic medals. Photos, videos and memories were shared by everyone.

Incoming freshmen at the top of their game

This past week has featured a number of incoming Badgers reaching the biggest stage in US youth soccer. Current Badger defender Catie Sessions along with incoming freshmen Cara Walls, Olivia Tehan and Carly Vogel have seen their respective teams advance to the US Youth National Championship Series.

After defeating Elm Grove Premier 6-0 in the Wisconsin State Cup Championship game, the FC Milwaukee U-18 Blue, featuring Walls, Tehan and Vogel, found themselves en route to the Midwest Region II Tournament held at the US Youth Sports Complex in Appleton, Wis.

Only 926 out of the over 10,000 youth teams across the nation advance to this level by winning their respective age group in a state cup championship. The regional championships consist of four pool groups divided within a given age. Each pool features four teams.

After three days of play, the U-18 Blue found themselves atop Pool B with six points and a 2-1-0 record. Defeating the KCFC Intensity, 2-1, in the semifinals put them one step closer to a Region II Championship title. In the championship game FC Milwaukee emerged with a 3-1 victory and a regional championship. This honor will take them west to the National Championship Series held in Phoenix, Ariz., July 27-31. The U-18 Blue will be one of only 60 teams to reach this competitive level of play.

Also attending the National Championship Series is current Badger defender Catie Sessions. Competing at the U-19 age level, Session's Minnesota Inferno advanced through pool play with an undefeated record and a perfect nine points. By defeating Toro Elite in the semifinals, 1-0, the Inferno secured their spot in the Region II Championship match. A 2-0 win over Mallorca ensured their trip to the national championships where only 12 teams will be crowned a victor.

Fellow incoming freshman Nikki Greenhalgh has also been busy helping her high school, Novi, win its second straight Michigan High School Athletic Association State Championship. After defeating Grosse Pointe South 2-1 in the semifinal match by contributing both a goal and an assist, Greenhalgh scored the lone goal in the state championship game. Her tally in the 18th minute was all Novi needed to defeat Troy and give her school its fifth championship in the last seven years. Greenhalgh, a team captain, was named to the all-state Dream Team for her contributions this season.

The US Youth Soccer National Championship Series provides more than 10,000 teams from US Youth Soccer's 55 State Associations the opportunity to showcase their abilities against the best in the nation while emphasizing teamwork, discipline and fair play. The yearlong competition begins with over 185,000 players in the US Youth Soccer State Championships. These champions and selected wildcard teams, through US Youth Soccer Regional Leagues, advance to compete in one of four the US Youth Soccer Regional Championships. Champions (U-14 through U-19) from each regional event advance to the National Championships.

Badgers sharpening skills with summer soccer

There are just 33 days left until the Wisconsin women's soccer team reports for preseason training camp, but many members have kept busy playing in leagues all over North America this summer. At roughly the halfway point of the season, UWBadgers.com takes a look at the summer league teams and performances.
Several players have been competing both with and against each other in the Women's Premier Soccer League. This highly-competitive league consists of both current and former collegiate players, as well as former professional players.

Three Badgers have stayed local and are playing with the Madison 56ers. Lauren Cochlin, Michele Dalton and Derya Kelter train regularly with the team, which is currently sitting in second place in the Midwest-North division with seven points and a 2-2-1 record.

Cochlin is tied for second on the team with two goals and four points, while Dalton has appeared in all five games and Kelter has played in four.

The FC Milwaukee Nationals, which sit six points ahead of the second place 56ers with a 4-1-1 record, feature four current Badgers: Joana Bielefeld, Lindsey Hamann, Lindsey Johnson and Laurie Nosbusch. Last summer, the Nationals won their division and advanced to reach the Final Four.

Nosbusch boasts a team-leading four goals and eight points while playing in all six games, while Bielefeld is tied for the team lead with one assist in five games. Johnson has seen action in five games and Hamann has appeared in three contests.

Also playing in the Midwest-North Division, fellow Badger Ali Heller trains with Eclipse Select in Chicago. The team currently sits in sixth place with four points at 1-1-1 but has played fewer games than most other teams. Heller, a defender, has appeared in all three games.

Monica Lam-Feist finds herself back in British Columbia for the summer, playing for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Western Conference of the W-League. The Whitecaps are well situated in first place in their division with 23 points and a 7-1-2 record. Lam-Feist has played in six of the team's 10 games, registering three shots.

Badgers Erin Jacobsen and Alev Kelter are also sharing the field together on the Naperville Soccer Association U-23 team in the Chicago area. Nicole La Petina isn't too far away, as she trains at home with Ela Elite in northern Illinois.

Catie Sessions is also spending the summer at home in Minnesota playing for the Woodbury Inferno, which has advanced to the U-19 regional championship game in Appleton, Wis. Sessions also spent a week in Chula Vista, Calif., training with the U-20 National Team.
The women's soccer team returns to Madison on Aug. 2 in preparation for its regular season opener against defending national champion Notre Dame on Aug. 19 in South Bend, Ind.


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team_NU_2011.jpgIn today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about her goals for the team's final four games of the season. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.


That's the goal right now.

We have four Big Ten games left. Our record is 27-22, 6-10 in the Big Ten. We still could get over 30 wins this season and register 10 Big Ten wins. That's a tall order with Purdue and Ohio State left to play, but it's possible. What an accomplishment that would be for this group, 30:10.

There are only five teams that have reached the 30 win mark in school history, and only two teams have ever finished the Big Ten season at or above .500 in Big Ten play. We're chasing history right now and have the chance to be one of the most successful softball teams to ever play for Wisconsin.

We have a lot of youth on the field with freshman and sophomores pitching and playing key positions. We split a tough series with Green Bay last night as our team balances end-of-year papers, tests and finals. Last night was one of our few times this year that we got beat by a team with a worse RPI than us. You never want to see that happen. To have a successful year you have to win all of the winnable games and steal a few key victories from teams that are ranked.

My wish for this group of young women is simple: play hungry every game, battle and refuse to lose. Yes we have a long season that spans four months and 56 games, but if you want to build a legacy, you can't take one pitch, one at-bat, one inning or one game for granted. You have to fight, scratch and claw to get every run, every out, and every win possible. If you have a chance to score runs in the first inning, you have to take it!

You must refuse to lose any battle. These games, these at-bats and these seasons are precious. Every one of these opportunities is a chance to see how we match up, and it's a chance to win. I hope every member of this team remembers nights like last night to motivate them at the end of this season and all summer long as they train for next year. Ninety percent of our lives are spent working, preparing and training for our challenges. When we get those few golden opportunities to compete and win and accomplish something special, we have to embrace it.

The softball program here at Wisconsin has made some huge strides this season, winning 27 games and earning the respect of top programs and coaches. We still have a huge leap to make in terms of ownership, leadership, accountability and pride. We've worked hard all year to start to build something special, to make a little history and earn a few small accomplishments. Now I want this group to battle ferociously to protect what we've worked for and to really accomplish something noteworthy down the stretch to make this season memorable.

30:10 would be an amazing thing. With four games to go, we could still reach that 30-win plateau. It's going to take each and every member of the Badger softball team to finish 2011 with 30:10. We'll need some amazing pitching, superb defense, timely offense and key hits to pull it off. We'll need to dive, steal, squeeze and defense to make it happen.

Let's finish strong and make history, together.

Culture of tenacity

In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's doubleheader sweep at Iowa on Wednesday night. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What an amazing doubleheader sweep at Iowa Wednesday night. It was our first Big ten sweep of the 2011 season and the first time the Badgers have ever swept Iowa at Iowa. I'm so proud of this group of young women.

The Wisconsin Softball team has played with a lot of energy and passion this season. We came from behind in both wins last night in Iowa. We actually tied the record for most comeback wins in school history with 14.

As a coach, you want your athletes to play hard every game, every inning and every out. You challenge them to believe in themselves and their teammates, to fight and to never give up. That culture of tenacity is being established here in Madison, and it's one of our greatest sources of pride.

We just earned our sixth Big Ten victory Wednesday night with wins this season over Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota. Whitney Massey, Mary Massei and Shannel Blackshear all had huge home runs for us. Abby Gregory provided a huge spark off the bench, utilizing her speed to score the game-winning run in the seventh inning of game one.

We're 26-19 right now as we prepare for No. 2 Michigan to come to Madison this weekend. What an exciting way to wrap up our season. We have eight games left, and we have the opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country at home to kick off the month of May! We know what a powerhouse Michigan softball is. We're thrilled to compete against one of the best teams in the country in front of our friends and family this weekend.

Overcoming a tough loss

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's tough extra-inning loss to Illinois and what the team needs to do to overcome it. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What a heartbreaking loss in extra innings to Illinois today. We played our hearts out and had some huge clutch hits and pitches to give us chances to win. We pitched well and played with a ton of heart and pride. I am so proud of this group of young women. Their tenacity and fight amazes me!

I am sure all of our student-athletes and coaches are taking this loss hard. I'm sure the parents and fans are heartbroken too. When you come so close to beating top-30 teams two weekends in a row, it wears on you. These losses make you question everything. Yet just because we didn't come out on top, doesn't mean our strategy or philosophy is wrong. We didn't give anything away today. Illinois just outplayed us in extra innings. But for seven straight innings, we played tough.

Doubleheader sweep a team effort

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IMG_1731_BLOG_1.jpgIn today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's doubleheader sweep over North Dakota on Thursday night. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What an exciting night for the Badgers. We beat North Dakota 5-0 and 7-0. Freshman pitcher Cassandra Darrah set the tone in the first game pitching a two-hit shutout for her 11th win this season. Cass has thrown some great games against tough competition lately; she needed a good "W" to get some momentum. Shannel Blackshear's monster three-run home run in the sixth inning led the offense.

Sophomore pitcher Meghan McIntosh had the best game of her career, striking out 13 hitters in game two. She worked ahead, trusted her pitches and looked relaxed. Great games are even more meaningful when they come after tough losses. Meg struggled in her last two outings, so to see her respond and bounce back last night was a huge character builder.

Freshman Stephanie Peace had a huge three-run homer to lead the offensive attack in the second game, with key contributions off the bench from Kelsey Horton, Ashley Hanewich and Abby Gregory. Kelsey, Ashley and Abby were a combined 3-3, with a walk, two runs scored and two RBIs. That's great depth!

Getting that first Big Ten win

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In this week's softball blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about how the team split with Michigan State to win its first Big Ten game of the season. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What a great win yesterday for the Badgers at Michigan State! There was a lot of tenacity and toughness displayed by Wisconsin. I am so proud of this group of young women for their determination and competitiveness. They want to win, and we're teaching them how to create momentum.

On Saturday, we lost big and only had one hit. Our staff met, and we focused on keeping things positive and light with the team. We've had a lot of teachable moments this year. Each mental error is an opportunity to teach the game, and increase our team's softball IQ so we can become better, smarter athletes.

We were losing 3-0 early at Michigan State yesterday when the weather got worse, and we were delayed one hour and 34 minutes due to rain and hail. When the game resumed, Shannel Blackshear hit a home run to start the rally. Amanda Najdek did a great job on the mound keeping Michigan State off balance.

We won 10-4 using a lot of creative coaching to bunt, steal and pressure our way back into the game. It's always fun to beat a conference opponent when you're on the road. Our team certainly loves those dramatic, come-from-behind victories this year. We're 17-13 right now after our first 30 games. It's amazing that we've only had two home games in our first 30 contests. We're looking forward to a long homestand this week!

Tough start to Big Ten play

In this week's softball blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's tough opening weekend in Big Ten play at Penn State. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

We lost two heartbreakers on the road at Penn State this weekend to open Big Ten play. I was so proud of how hard the team battled and bought in to our game plan. We managed to get about 27 runners on base in two games against two of the best pitchers in the Big Ten.

Penn State is known for its pitchers. When you play on the road against two pitchers with ERAs under 2.00, you know you're in for a battle. I was so proud of our team's tenacity and grit. We scored five runs on Saturday and two on Sunday, including the go-ahead run in the 8th inning. We didn't even have our leading RBI producer on Sunday, after Mary Massei suffered a facial fracture after an outfield collision on Saturday.

Spring Break reflections

springbreak_BLOG.jpgIn this week's softball blog, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the team's spring break to California. Check back to UWBadgers.com for regular updates throughout the season.

What a great Spring Break! We arrived in California on Thursday and drove up the coast to Santa Barbara. Friday started with a tough loss to San Diego, but the team bounced back to beat the host team, University of California Santa Barbara. It's always tough to play teams on the road. They already had five wins at home, so it was a great "W" for us. Saturday we were able to beat San Diego, and lost a tough one to UCSB. The tournament ended in dramatic fashion with a big win over UNLV. I'm so proud of this group. They fight and battle, even when facing adversity.