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Gilreath runs away with fan vote

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After a week of voting, Badgers fans have spoken with their pick for the top play of the 2010-11 season. In reality, the contest was probably over before it started.

The play that got the football Badgers' thrilling 31-18 win over No. 1-ranked Ohio State "underway with ... a ... bang" ran away with nearly half the votes.

David Gilreath's 97-yard return for touchdown on the game's opening kickoff claimed 48.7 percent of the vote to take the title in the UW Athletics 2010-11 Play of the Year poll.

Runner-up honors -- with 27.2 percent of the fan vote -- went to women's hockey's Kelly Nash, who tallied the game-winner in overtime to secure the WCHA Final Face-off crown over Minnesota.

Josh Gasser's buzzer-beating 3-pointer garnered 9.5 percent of the vote to finish third, and Landon Peacock's last-gasp pass for the Big Ten cross country title was fourth with 5.3 percent. Justin Schultz's overtime game-winner for the Badger men rounded out the top five with 4.3 percent.

Here's a look at the complete poll results:
48.7%  David Gilreath - Football - Opening kickoff return for TD vs. Ohio State (Oct. 16)
27.2%  Kelly Nash - Women's Hockey- OT game-winner in WCHA Final Face-Off (March 5)
9.5%   Josh Gasser - Men's Basketball - Buzzer-beating 3-pointer at Michigan (Feb. 23)
5.3%   Landon Peacock - Men's Cross Country - Late pass to win Big Ten title (Oct. 31)
4.3%   Justin Schultz - Men's Hockey - OT game-winning goal vs. Canisius (Jan. 8)
3.5%   Brad Nortman - Football - Fake punt to keep drive alive vs. Iowa (Oct. 23)
1.4%   Lin Zastrow - Women's Basketball - Game-tying tip-in at buzzer vs. Wyoming (Dec. 15)

And, in case you want to see it again, the top play in UW sports for 2010-11:


Play of the Year Nominee: Kelly Nash

Vote: UW Athletics 2010-11 Play of the Year

Our look back on the top plays of 2010-11 continues Saturday as we look back on the play that finished off the Badgers' sweep of the WCHA regular-season and tournament titles with a dramatic overtime win over Border Battle rival Minnesota.

Is it your choice for the best of 2010-11? Feel free to vote once per day for your favorite play, and we will announce the winner Wednesday, June 29.


Kelly Nash - Women's Hockey
OT game-winner to win WCHA Final Face-Off (March 5)

With the WCHA Final Face-Off crown on the line in a rivalry matchup against Minnesota, the Badgers needed a lift in overtime. Their first lead of the game came with just 49 seconds to go in the extra period as senior Kelly Nash took a pass from fellow senior Geena Prough and wristed the game-winner past Gophers goaltender Noora Raty. The goal gave UW its fourth WCHA tournament title and kept the Badgers' unbeaten streak alive at 24 straight games.

Lucas at Large: BTN gets it right with award for Johnson

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One of the most prolific goal-scorers in college hockey history got credit for a "save'' Monday  when Mark Johnson saved the Badgers from getting skunked on the Big Ten Network awards show.

Wisconsin had nominees in six different categories.

After guiding the UW women's hockey team to its fourth national championship in the last six seasons, the 53-year-old Johnson was honored as BTN's Women's Coach of the Year.

Johnson beat out Michigan softball coach Carol Hutchins and Penn State basketball coach Coquese Washington.  In collecting 37 wins overall - an NCAA record -- the Badgers finished the 2010-11 season on a 27-game unbeaten streak. Johnson is now 14-2 all-time in the NCAA tournament.

"We never lost a game from Thanksgiving on and that really impresses me about this group,'' Johnson said. "Especially when you think about being ranked No. 1 (for 12 straight weeks, Jan. 3 to March 21) and having that bullseye on your back every game. 

"It was an incredible run.''

Despite the graduation loss of captain Meghan Duggan - the UW's career scoring leader and the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner as the nation's top player -- Johnson is confident that the Badgers will stay among the elite.

Citing the returning strength of WCHA rivals Minnesota and North Dakota, he pointed out, "That bodes well for our sport and women's hockey. Competiton creates excitement and brings people to the rink.''

There will be no shortage of motivation for Johnson, who has a 247-41-24 (.830) career mark.

"It's one of the things that we teach our players - to be successful you have to be competitive,'' he said. "And that usually starts at the top. It's a lot more enjoyable to win than to lose.

"One of the nice things about the summer is that you get a chance to reflect while recharging your engine. By the time September comes around, you're fired up and ready to go again.''

The off-season will be a little more challenging in one respect for Johnson in that he must find a replacement for long-time assistant Tracey DeKeyser, who plans on retiring.

DeKeyser, who just completed her 12th season with the program, served as Wisconsin's interim coach while Johnson took a one-year sabbatical to coach the 2010 U.S. Women's Olympic hockey team.

"When you lose an assistant coach - someone who has contact with the players on a daily basis - it changes things,'' Johnson said. "Tracey has been here since day one and she's been outstanding.

"She'll certainly be missed for all the things she does, not only form a hockey standpoint, but from helping kids with their academics and personal issues. She's been a great mentor to our players.''

Outside of Johnson's award, UW fans had little to cheer about Monday night when BTN announced its winners. Some decisions were more understandable than others.

For example, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was singled out for Most Dominating Performance - gaining the nod over Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor and Illinois tailback Mikel Leshoure.

Although Taylor was most deserving - after sparking the Badgers past No. 1 Ohio State - Robinson did account for 502 of his team's 532 yards of total offense in a 28-24 win over Notre Dame.

The biggest surprise was that neither of Wisconsin nominees for the Game of the Year - the dramatic triumphs over the unbeaten Buckeyes in football and basketball - resonated with the voters.

Go figure. BTN opted to recognize two really crummy defenses for the roles that they played in Michigan's 67-65 victory over Illinois in triple-overtime. You can do the math.

Michigan's defense ranked No. 110 nationally and got Rich Rodriguez fired, among other things. Meanwhile, the two 7-6 teams combined for 132 points and 1,237 yards of total offense.

For decades, the Big Ten has prided itself on defense winning championships.

There's apparently a different standard for winning awards in the Legends and Leaders era.
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The best players aren't always the best leaders.

But it helps when they are - just like it helps when they have a presence.

"Presence is always good,'' suggested athletic director Barry Alvarez, the UW football coach for 16 seasons. "But sometimes you don't have a presence.''

That's definitely not the case with Meghan Duggan and Jordan Taylor, the UW's Female and Male athletes of the year, respectively. They've both earned that respect, too, Alvarez said.

"Meghan lights up a room,'' he noted. "I've been really impressed with her anytime I've been around her. She's legitimate. You can see her teammates hang on every word she says.

"Jordan is one of the most special kids we've ever had here,'' Alvarez went on. "There's a magnetism about him.  Kids follow him because he does thing the right way and backs up what he says.''

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Duggan, the senior forward, and Taylor, the junior guard, are not only among the best players on their respective teams - if not the best - but they have "it,'' which so often translates to presence.

"I've always defined leadership,'' Alvarez said, "as someone who can get a group of people to do a common job or something they couldn't do without someone organizing it.

"You've got people playing a game; people running a team, you need someone - Hayden Fry used to call them bell-cows - to take the rest of the people in a certain direction.

"Someone can say all the right things - they can yell and scream - but if that person turns around after practice and doesn't live the right life, their teammates know they're an imposter.''

"Meghan Duggan and Jordan Taylor are as legit as it gets.''

One of my favorite examples of Duggan's leadership emerged before the Badgers faced Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA quarterfinals. Duggan took ownership of the room, the locker room.

Freshman goalie Alex Rigsby recalled how Duggan addressed the players before taking the ice.

"She told us, 'Listen, this is what we're going to do and this is how it's going to happen and we're going out there and we're going to win,''' Rigsby said.

Explained Duggan, "I always try to get the team ready for the big game to make sure we're all on the same page and prepared for the task at hand.''

Mission accomplished; the Badgers beat Duluth.

Duggan later detailed her message.

"I just told the girls, 'Let's not let this one slip away,''' she said. "We had 60 minutes ahead of us (against Duluth) and we were basically in control of our destiny.

"I didn't want a minute to go by where anyone questioned, 'What if I did this? Or what if I did that?' I just kind of instilled that in their head.

"I let them know we're an incredible team. We have everything that we need - as long as we play our game and play up to our potential - to do great things.''

Mission accomplished, again. The Badgers went on to win the national championship.

Duggan shares many positive qualities with Taylor.

"Remember that it's a sport that I love,'' she said of hockey. "It's a game and I play it for fun as much as sometimes the games are life and death for me. I want to make sure we're having fun.''

That would be the personification of Taylor.

"I remind myself and the guys what we're supposed to be doing,'' he said. "But I'm also reminding them that it's still just a game and I try to keep them loose that way.

"It's a fine line - staying focused and staying loose. We play because we have fun. But we also play because we want to win. You have to find that even balance.

"As a point guard,'' he also said, "you're looked to be the leader, the floor general ... but a team is a collective unit and we're all working together to try and reach the same goals and win.''

Taylor shares many positive qualities with Duggan, including this trait, "Opponents can respect me - or better respect me - for wanting to come out there and kick their butts around the court.''

Or ice.

Now that's having a presence.

The envelope please

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WHKY_110617_Duggan_Meghan.jpgIt's fitting that as we look back at the 2010-11 season on UWBadgers.com that BTN (formerly Big Ten Network) sent out its release this morning about its end of the year awards show. The show will air on Monday, June 20 at 6:30 p.m. and be hosted by Mike Hall and Rick Pizzo.

Given the type of year UW's teams had it's not surprising to find them prominently among the nominees. In addition to the Suzy Favor Award for the best female student-athlete, and the Jesse Owens Award for the best male student-athlete, there are nine other categories on the show. 

Wisconsin student-athletes, coaches or teams are among the three nominees in six of those categories. That is tied with Michigan for the most. Below is the complete list of awards and nominees. Which ones do the Badgers deserve?

Men's Team of the Year
Ohio State Basketball
Penn State Wrestling
Wisconsin Football

Women's Team of the Year
Northwestern Lacrosse
Penn State Volleyball
Wisconsin Hockey

Game of the Year
Illinois at Michigan - football (11/6/2010)
Ohio State at Wisconsin - football (10/16/2010)
Ohio State at Wisconsin - men's basketball (2/12/2011)

Men's Coach of the Year
Thad Matta - Ohio State basketball
Matt Painter - Purdue basketball
Cael Sanderson - Penn State wrestling

Women's Coach of the Year
Carol Hutchins - Michigan softball
Mark Johnson - Wisconsin ice hockey
Coquese Washington - Penn State basketball

Most Dominating Performance
Denard Robinson - Michigan football (vs. Notre Dame, 9/11/2010)
Mikel Leshoure - Illinois football (vs. Northwestern, 11/20/2010)
Jordan Taylor - Wisconsin men's basketball (vs. Ohio State, 2/12/2011)

Best Finish
Notre Dame at Michigan State - football (9/18/2010)
Illinois at Michigan - football (11/6/2010)
Wisconsin at Michigan - men's basketball (2/23/2011)

Breakout Performer of the Year
Darius Morris - Michigan men's basketball
Denard Robinson - Michigan football
Jared Sullinger - Ohio State men's basketball

Most Courageous Performance
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State football
Jon Hoese, Minnesota football
Brock Mealer, brother of Michigan offensive lineman Elliott Mealer

2010-11 Athlete of the Year: The contenders

Each year, Wisconsin Athletics submits its top men's and women's athletes for the prestigious Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year and Suzy Favor Female Athlete of the Year awards, presented annually by the Big Ten Conference.

The Badgers' nominees are considered to be the UW Male Athlete of the Year and UW Female Athlete of the Year award winners.

With UW teams experiencing success across the board during the 2010-11 season, it's as difficult a job as ever to narrow the field to just one deserving student-athlete on both the men's and women's sides of competition.

The winner of UW's awards will be announced Friday, but you can read profiles on each of the nominees who were not selected today. Then, make your own decision and vote in our polls on Facebook to determine the fans' choice for the Badgers' top athletes in 2010-11.

(Yes, it's pretty easy to figure out who will be announced as winners Friday...)



Men's Candidates

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Gabe Carimi (Football)
The 29th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, Gabe Carimi started 49 games throughout his Badger career. A 2010 consensus first-team All-American, Carimi became the second Badger to win the Outland Trophy, given annually to the nation's top interior lineman. He is just the eighth Badger to earn unanimous, consensus first-team All-America honors.

Last season Carimi was a key cog in an offense that led the Big Ten and averaged a school-record 41.5 points per game (fifth in the country), including 45.2 points per game in Big Ten play, second-best in conference history. UW also led the Big Ten and ranked 12th in the country in rushing offense, nearly becoming the first FBS team in history to have three running backs go over 1,000 yards in the same season.

At left tackle, Carimi lined up against some of the best defensive linemen in the country, including All-Americans Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue, Cameron Heyward of Ohio State and Adrian Clayborn of Iowa. He was just the third player in Badger history to earn Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors.

Earlier this month, Carimi was named Wisconsin's male Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient. He graduated in May with 3.13 grade-point average in civil and environmental engineering and was a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

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Landon Peacock (Cross Country)
Landon Peacock capped off his senior season for the Badgers in style with a come-from-behind performance that gave him the win in a dramatic men's race at the 2010 Big Ten Cross Country Championship.

The Morley, Mich., native claimed his first individual Big Ten title by a half-second, out-leaning Indiana's Andrew Bayer at the finish line for the win. Peacock clocked in at 23 minutes, 40.8 seconds, while Bayer was second in 23:41.3.

The victory made Peacock UW's 27th individual conference champion and led the way for the Badgers to secure their 12th-consecutive team crown in the first-ever Big Ten championship held at their own Zimmer Championship Course.

Sitting fifth heading into the course's finishing chute, Peacock charged past teammate Mohammed Ahmed and Minnesota's Ben Blankenship and trailed only Bayer with 30 meters to go. He finally hunted the Hoosier down at the line to become UW's first individual titlist since Matt Withrow in 2007.

He went on to earn first-team all-region honors with a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional -- as UW won its eighth-straight team title -- and then scored All-America laurels for the second time in his career with a 20th-place showing at the 2010 NCAA Championship.

In track, Peacock was unable to defend his 2010 Big Ten title in the 5,000 meters as an injury sidelined him for the duration of the indoor season. However, he came back outdoors to finish fifth at the Big Ten meet in the 5,000 and then posted a personal-best time of 13:42.90 in the event at the 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Round. 

Despite the outstanding time, which would have won the other preliminary-round heat in Eugene, Ore., as well as both sections of the event at the NCAA East Preliminary Round site, Peacock did not advance to the NCAA championships due to regional qualifying procedures.

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Anchoring the blue line for the Badgers in the 2010-11 season, Justin Schultz completed his sophomore campaign as the nation's top-scoring defenseman with 18 goals and 47 points.  His 18 goals were the most by a blueliner in the nation since 2002-03 and was just one shy of the UW single-season record for a defenseman.

Schultz had a remarkable sophomore season and did not go more than two games without a point. He scored the opening goal of a game five times and led the Badgers with 14 multi-point games.

The All-American was also named Defenseman of the Year by Inside College Hockey,  WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-WCHA,  was one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award and earned a spot on College Hockey News' national first team.

On Nov. 27 against Michigan State, Schultz became the sixth Badger defenseman in program history -- and the first since 1991-92 -- to record a hat trick. He was also the sixth Wisconsin defenseman to lead the team in points. 

Schultz was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week after scoring the overtime game-winner in a 6-5 victory over Canisius on Jan. 8, snapping UW's 26-game overtime winless drought.  He tallied three assists against Alabama Huntsville on Oct. 17 and had a total of three multi-goal games on the year. 

In part to Schultz's efforts, Wisconsin ranked No. 8 nationally in goals-against average at 2.39. The Badgers also had the nation's top-scoring defensive corps, with a combined 120 points from the blue line. 

Women's Candidates

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Dorcas Akinniyi (Track & Field)
Dorcas Akinniyi continues to haul in hardware every time she heads to a championship meet. The Carrollton, Texas, native added to her collection in 2011 with All-America honors both indoors and outdoors.

Akinniyi has qualified for the NCAA championships in all five seasons -- indoor and outdoor combined -- in which she's been eligible. After this season, she has also collected an All-America award four times. 

She posted her best-ever NCAA finish with an outstanding fourth-place showing in the pentathlon at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships, racking up a school-record total of 4,254 points to earn her first All-America laurel of the year. 

That performance came on the heels of her second-consecutive conference title in the pentathlon at the 2011 Big Ten Indoor Championships, where she scored 3,929 points.

Moving outdoors, Akinniyi earned a berth directly to the NCAA championships by virtue of her heptathlon score of 5,352 points at the Mt. SAC Relays Multi-Events in April. She also qualified for the 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Round in the open high jump for the second-straight season.

At the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Akinniyi piled up 5,554 points -- just 30 markers shy of her lifetime-best score -- to finish sixth in the heptathlon and secure the fourth All-America honor of her career. A career-best 3,469 points on the opening day of the two-day, seven-event competition propelled Akinniyi to another top-eight finish.

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Hilary Knight (Hockey)
After taking a year off to compete with the U.S. Olympic Team in the 2010 Winter Games, Hilary Knight returned to Wisconsin for her junior season, leading the nation with 47 goals and helping the Badgers to their fourth NCAA championship.

Third in the nation in points with 81 on the season, the alternate captain now sits in third place on the UW all-time career-scoring list with 202 points.

Knight tallied a career-best 20-game point streak that spanned from Dec. 10 to Feb. 26, tying for the second-longest steak in UW history. In 41 games, she recorded 25 multi-point games, including three five-point efforts and four hat tricks. With her 47 goals, Knight scored more goals than four NCAA Division I teams did all year.

Knight was named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week twice, once after tallying five points against RPI on Oct. 2 and lastly on Jan. 5 after having back-to-back four-point games against Northeastern and Mercyhurst  at the Easton Holiday Showcase.

Scoring just 47 seconds into the Fill the Bowl contest at the Kohl Center, Knight tallied the first of three goals as the Badgers downed Minnesota, 3-1, in front of 10,668 fans on Jan. 29. Her game-winning goal against Bemidji State on Feb. 4 marked her 100th career tally.

She led UW with two points, including the game-tying goal and an assist on the game-winner, against Minnesota Duluth in an NCAA regional game on March 12. She went on to record three assists at the Frozen Four, including two in a 3-2 win over Boston College on March 18 in the national semifinal game. 

On the national stage, Knight represented the United States as a member of the Women's Under-22 Select Team at the 2010 USA Hockey Women's National Festival and a three-game series against Canada.

Knight tallied three points for the U.S. Women's Select Team in the 2010 Women's Four Nations Cup in St. John's, Canada, where Team USA placed second.

After winning the national title with Wisconsin, Knight scored the game-winner in overtime against Canada as the U.S. Women's National Team claimed gold in April's 2011 IIHF World Women's Championship in Zurich and Winterthur, Switzerland.

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Maggie Meyer (Swimming)
Maggie Meyer capped off a brilliant career at Wisconsin by becoming the first national champion in program history when she won the 200-yard backstroke at the 2011 NCAA Championships in March. Meyer finished the NCAAs as a six-time All-American and was an 11-time All-American for her career. 

With seven honorable mention All-America honors in career as well, Meyer tied for the second-most All-America accolades in school history with 18.

The 2011 Big Ten Swimmer of the Year, Meyer won five of the six events she entered at the 2011 Big Ten Championships, bumping her career total to 10 conference titles. The White Bear Lake, Minn., native swept the 100 and 200 backstroke events, then recorded relay wins in the 400 free, 200 medley and 400 medley. 

She set four school records as a senior, bringing her career total to six. Meyer also set a Big Ten record in the 200 medley relay.

In addition to setting the school record in the 200 back, Meyer also lowered the mark individually in the 100 back (51.66). In the relays, Meyer was a part of record-setting teams in the 200 medley relay (1:35.71) and 400 medley relay (3:31.73).

Meyer dominated the backstroke events in 2010-11, going undefeated in the 200 backstroke and winning 10 of 11 races in the 100 back. All told, Meyer won 38 out of possible 57 races she entered during the season either as an individual or as a member of a relay unit.

Former Badger Jinelle Zaugg-Siergiej announces retirement

Former Badger women's hockey player Jinelle Zaugg-Siergiej announced her retirement from the U.S. Women's National Program last Friday.

In addition to her decorated five-year career with Team USA, Zaugg-Siergiej enjoyed a successful four-year career with the UW women's hockey team from 2004-08.

What they're saying about the Patty Kazmaier award

Senior forward Meghan Duggan (Danvers, Mass.) was named the 2011 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner, accepting the 14th annual award at a brunch ceremony in Erie, Pa., in conjunction with the 2011 NCAA Women's Frozen Four last weekend.

Read what the media had to say about Duggan being named the top player in NCAA Division I women's ice hockey this season.

What they're saying about the Frozen Four

Last weekend, No. 1 Wisconsin earned its fourth NCAA crown, defeating Boston University, 4-1, to become the 2011 national champions. The Badgers topped Boston College, 3-2, in the semifinals to advance to the title game.

Read what the media said about the Badgers in the 2011 NCAA Women's Frozen Four. 

Archived Gameday Blog: Women's Hockey National Championship

Mandy Hansen and Ben Fromstein chronicled all the action in No. 1 Wisconsin's 4-1 win over No. 3 Boston University in the 2011 NCAA Women's Frozen Four national championship game on March 20, 2011 at Tullio Arena in Erie, Pa. The Badgers earned their fourth national title.

 

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