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Soccer Insider: Stakes rise as regular season comes to a close

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Williams,Kodee12_MichiganState1_sm.jpgWith one weekend left in the regular-season, the Badgers are in a tie for the No. 4 seed with both Minnesota and Illinois. The Gophers downed UW on Sept. 27, while the Badgers outlasted Illinois in their regular-season home finale. All three squads have earned 16 points in conference matches, with the Gophers holding the tie-break in the case that all three win in the final weekend of competition. Either way, the scenarios that are bound to unfold will not hamper UW's chances at a trip to Bloomington, Ind. -- they will only make the journey toward its first Big Ten tourney title in over a decade that much more difficult.

Quick Hits:
Silence of the Lam-Feist
Senior Monica Lam-Feist has tallied a career-high 13 points in 2012, including a pair of scores in UW's 4-2 win over Purdue on Friday, Oct. 19, posting her first multi-goal match of the season. Lam-Feist's quiet demeanor is off-set by her aggressive on-field approach to defending, as well as scoring points. This season, the senior is leading the Badgers in shots (52) and is second in total goals (6).

Goal-oriented
The Badgers are tallying goals at a rapid pace this season. After 18 matches, Wisconsin has eclipsed its entire goal total from 2011. Behind a trio of four-goal outings and a five-goal performance against South Dakota State, the Badgers have 37 goals to date, 11 more than their total output all of last season, with one regular season match to go.

Wisconsin's offensive improvement is largely due to its aggressiveness on the front line. UW is outshooting its opponents 251-206 and are outscoring foes 37-23. 

B1G Race: Badgers back in Big Ten Tourney hunt

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Following the Badgers' 3-0 week, UW has now positioned itself to make a move for a top-four seed in the 2012 Big Ten Tournament scheduled to begin later this month in Bloomington, Ind. The Badgers have three regular-season matches left -- all on the road -- against squads who are also in the hunt for the top-eight spots in the tournament field. 
       "To get nine more points is the focus for us moving forward," UW head coach Paula Wilkins said. "There have been momentum building moments in all of the seasons and we've got to use last week as a momentum builder."

Quick Kicks:
Clutch Cara 
Sophomore Cara Walls played the role of savior during the Badgers last two matches, notching game-winning goals against both Northwestern and Illinois. The sophomore is currently tied for third in the Big Ten in game-winning goals (2) and now leads her team in points (17) and goals (8), after tallying 19 points and nine goals in 2011. 

10 is the magic number 
For the fourth-consecutive season the Badgers have eclipsed the 10-win plateau. Following UW's 2-1 double-overtime win over Illinois on Sunday, the Badgers matched their win total from 2011, with three matches left in the regular season. UW has now tallied 10 or more wins in seven of the last 10 years, making an appearance in the NCAA Tournament during five of those 10 double-digit winning seasons. 

Paige-turner: New year brings Adams success

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Following a season in which she tallied one goal and recorded no more than four shots all year, junior Paige Adams has emerged as arguably the most important member of the 2012 Badgers squad. The British Columbia native is currently leading the UW in points (14) and goals (5), and is tied for the lead in assists (4). As Adams goes, so do the Badgers as UW holds a 7-2-0 record when the junior records at least a point. Adams has either scored or assisted on a goal in nine of 14 matches this season, including a crucial penalty-kick goal in a 3-2 double-overtime win against Illinois St. on Sept. 9. 

Quick Kicks:
Know the foe - The Wildcats
Northwestern is 4-8-2 and has yet to record a win in Big Ten play in 2012. They are currently in the midst of a seven-match winless streak, with their last win dating back to Sept. 9, over Yale. Kate Allen is leading the Wildcats in points (15) and goals (6), while Allen and KK Barr are tied for the lead in assists with three.

McClimon Magic
The Badgers are 5-2-0 at the McClimon Soccer Complex this season, a feat UW has not accomplished since 2009. UW holds a 27-14-7 (.622) record at McClimon during the Paula Wilkins era and have recorded shutouts in 14 of its last 19 home matches, including four alone this season. UW is outscoring opponents, 16-8, at home in 2012 after kicking off its season with three-straight shutout victories.

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Badger freshmen Kinley McNicoll was named to Top Drawer Soccer's top-100 freshmen list, released Tuesday morning. McNicoll came in at No. 57 and is just one of 12 Big Ten rookies to make the list.

The Ontario native came to UW as part of head coach Paula Wilkins' highly-touted freshmen bunch and has shined since earning the starting nod early on during the 2012 pre-season. McNicoll is one of just four freshmen to start for the Badgers, and has garnered seen action in nearly every minute of all 14 contests this season, posting a goal in Monday night's 2-0 win over Green Bay.

McNicoll is third among all Badgers in points (10) and has shown flashes of experience and grit only seen in someone who has redshirted or is nearing the end of their four-year career.

The freshman has shown aggressiveness, ranking second on UW in shots (26) but has also displayed her unselfishness, notching only 10 shots on goal and tallying four assists this season. 

Late Arrival: Richard impressive in goal

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First appeared in Varsity

Genevieve Richard began the season out of the running for the starting GK position at UW. Richard was selected to join the Canadian National Team at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in late August, missing most of preseason camp. 

Richard returned to Madison to find the Badgers sitting in the top-25 and riding a five-game home win streak. Following a 1-2-0 stretch, the junior was inserted into the starting GK role, making her first in-game appearance on the road against Ohio State. 

The Quebec native did not disappoint, tallying six saves and posting UW's first road shutout of 2012. 


Quick Hits:
Early Bird Gets the Worm: UW holds a 60 percent chance of winning the match when scoring first and are 6-0-0 in game's where they have accomplished just that this season. The Badgers are 5-0-0 when leading at the half and 2-1-1 when tied heading into the intermission.

Goal-oriented: After 12 matches, Wisconsin has recorded nearly 90 percent of its entire goal total from 2011. Behind a pair of four-goal outings and a five-goal performance against South Dakota State, the Badgers have 23 goals to date, just three shy of their 2011 total of 26 goals. Wisconsin's offensive improvement is largely due to its aggressiveness on the front line. UW is outshooting its opponents 159-150 and is outscoring foes 23-15.

Road Test: UW prepares for key B1G road trip

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MADISON, Wis. --The Badgers hit the road this week for a pair of B1G matches against Minnesota (9/27) and Ohio State (9/30) and will end its regular-season schedule playing six of its final nine contests away from home. 

With an updated RPI of 23, including marquee wins over Notre Dame, Illinois St. and Milwaukee, the Badgers have the strength of schedule to make a postseason run. 

Recent losses to No. 8 Penn St. and No. 22 Michigan hurt the Badgers' chances but UW can make a strong case for itself and take a huge step toward regaining momentum in the B1G race with a good showing on the road this week.

Quick Hits:
Shooting Stars: The Badgers hold a 4-0-0 record in 2012 when outshooting opponents, with a pair of those victories coming in shutout fashion. The Badgers rank eighth in the conference in shots, averaging 11.33 a match, with senior Monica Lam-Feist leading the team through 10 games with 29.

McClimon Magic: The Badgers are 5-1-0 at the McClimon Soccer Complex this season, a feat UW has not accomplished since 2008. UW holds a 27-13-7 (.648) record at the McClimon Complex during the Paula Wilkins era and have recorded shutouts in 14 of its last 18 home matches.

Quick Kicks: Forever young

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After an impressive freshman campaign, Cara Walls entered 2012 as one of Paula Wilkins' premier players. Walls' dominance has not wavered but a pair of underclassmen are surfacing as formidable threats for a team that has not lost a game at home this season.

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Sophomore Kodee Williams and freshman Kinley McNicoll are two of the most active players for Wilkins in 2012. McNicoll is third on the team in points (8), while Williams brings unmatched intensity coming off of the bench, tallying three goal already this year. Together, the trio has combined for 24 of UW's 40 points and have scored 40 percent of the team's goals. 

Quick Hits:
Goal-oriented
After eight games, Wisconsin has recorded 76 percent of its entire goal total from 2011. Behind a pair of four-goal outings and a five-goal performance against South Dakota State, the Badgers have 20 goals to date, just six shy of their 2011 total of 26.

Ram(Paige) Adams
Making the most of her senior season, Paige Adams is leading the Badgers in points (10) and total goals (4). Adams has tallied at least a point in six of UW's eight matches this season, and is currently on a four-game point scoring streak, tallying goals in all home matches except for one. Ironically, the only two matches Adams has failed to tally a point in have resulted in losses at No. 2 UCLA (8/31) and No. 11 Penn State (9/16).

Lucas at Large: Badgers' approach is music to Wilkins' ears

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Three years ago, the Wisconsin women's soccer team learned an invaluable lesson at the expense of getting humbled in a 6-0 loss to No. 3 ranked Stanford.

The overmatched Badgers were outshot, 30-4.

But they could take some solace in knowing that Stanford would go on to win 25 straight before finally losing to North Carolina, 1-0, in the NCAA championship game.

The Badgers could also take pride in knowing that they turned around their season after that loss and made it all the way to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament before falling to Boston College.

Not only did it mark Wisconsin's best finish in the NCAAs since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 2001, it was the program's first Sweet 16 appearance in 16 years.

UW coach Paula Wilkins was reminded of that 2009 loss at Stanford the other day while discussing the positives that came out of 2-0 loss to top-ranked UCLA in Los Angeles last Friday night.

This was a far more competitive matchup; it was night and day, really.

Fact is, the Bruins didn't take the lead until the 78th minute and the Badgers were still on the attack in the final seconds after pulling goalkeeper Lauren Gunderson and using her in the box.

Wisconsin got one last shot at tying the game, but it was blocked and the deflection set up an uncontested breakaway by UCLA's Zakiya Bywaters, who sealed the victory with an empty-net goal.

Wilkins liked the way her players responded to the challenge; she liked the effort even more after learning from Monica Lam-Feist what had been said in a postgame huddle on the field.

If the Badgers were going to lose -- to paraphrase Lam-Feist -- they would go down fighting or by "throwing it all out there'' like they had against the Bruins. That was music to Wilkins' ears.

"This team is different than any team I've had in the past years,'' Wilkins said.

That was evident in the UW's season opener, a 1-0 victory over Notre Dame, the 2010 NCAA champions. Lam-Feist's goal gave the Badgers only their second win over the Irish in series history.

The only other victory came in 1989.

"Anytime you get a result against a team that has won national championships and is a perennial top-10 team in the national scene, it's important,'' said Wilkins, who won her first opener in five years. "It gives your team some confidence and makes them believe in what they can do.''

Wilkins emphasized afterward the need "to show people that it wasn't a fluke.''

She made that same point to her players prior to facing Loyola Marymount last Sunday.

"I told them after the Friday game I thought a lot of them had come to California just to play UCLA,'' she said, "and we can't lose sight of being consistent and committed to details in the next game. By getting four goals against Loyola it showed people that we weren't just a one-trick pony.''

The Badgers won 4-2 over Loyola Marymount and improved their record to 4-1.

"The biggest thing I'm happy about is that the players are committed to each other,'' Wilkins said. "I'm really excited about the dynamic they've created -- they really have a strong commitment to defending and attacking together and that mentality is carrying through a lot of games.''

The offense has been pretty noteworthy, too.

Wisconsin has scored 16 goals through five games.

The Badgers had 27 goals in 20 games last season.

"As a coach, you sleep a little better,'' Wilkins acknowledged.

The brunt of the offense has been generated among five players: Lam-Feist (3 goals, 15 shots), Paige Adams (3 goals, 10 shots), Kinley McNicoll, Kodee Williams and McKenna Meuer (2 goals each).

"Any given day,'' Wilkins said, "one of these kids is really good.''

Have there been one or two players that the others have rallied around?

"The upperclassmen are rallying around the freshmen,'' she said, "and the freshmen are rallying around the upperclassmen. It's a mutual respect for each other. Their work rate and energy is exciting.''

That's what she hasn't seen around here in a long time, she confessed.

After falling short of the NCAA tournament last season, Wilkins pointed out, "A lot of the juniors came in and said, 'We want to make a difference' and they really put the work in to build a relationship with the younger players and you can kind of see how they all believe in each other.''

That resolve was strengthened by how the Badgers played against UCLA. "I learned we're not as far off as we think we are, in terms of being competitive with the good teams,'' Wilkins said. "UCLA gave us the standard where we need to be and it's going to help us in training.''

To this end, the next two opponents -- Illinois State and Milwaukee -- will help the Badgers fine-tune their game and raise their level of play in preparation of a rugged Big Ten schedule, beginning with the conference opener Sept. 16 at Penn State.

While the offense has been a pleasant and welcome development, take it from Wilkins that her player's commitment to "defending has really made them a dangerous team'' -- one that may be capable of playing with anybody on any given day.

The Voice: Six set to join elite group in Hall of Fame

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgThis Friday evening, the University of Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame will add six new members -- Jim Haluska, Jim Haines, Lawrence Johnson, Karen Lunda, Cory Raymer and Dick Bennett.

In Varsity magazine a couple of weeks ago, Mike Lucas took us down memory lane with Raymer, the All-America center who helped the Badgers to their first-ever Rose Bowl victory, as well as with Coach Bennett, who no doubt is best known for leading the Badgers on the magical run to the 2000 Final Four.

In addition to being a great player, Raymer was a reporter's dream. Maybe the best way to describe Cory Raymer is by saying he was John Moffitt before we ever heard of John Moffitt. During a media day, some photographers were gathering players for various photos. Raymer emerged from the tunnel and heard his name. The center responded "I answer to anything with 'dumb' in front of it."  

Raymer was dumb like a fox.

The media loved Bennett, as well. He liked to tell fans that he could show Barry Alvarez's football team how to pass, while Coach Alvarez's boys could teach the basketball squad how to run.

But never confuse their sense of humor with their competitive nature. No doubt the desire to maximize his or her potential is what drove each member in the Class of 2012.

Wrestler Jim Haines overcame a knee injury and competed in the 1976 Olympic Summer Games. The following season at Wisconsin, Haines became an NCAA champion by beating Big Ten rival Mike McArthur of Minnesota.

Former coach Duane Kleven says Haines had a combination of toughness and smarts that made him extra special, referring to him as a "mental giant."  When his wrestling days were done, Haines became a coach -- of girls' softball at Pepin High School. He led his team to two state titles.

With this year marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX, one could make a strong argument that Karen Lunda is one of the more important athletes in UW history. Lunda lettered both in field hockey and soccer. While attending Madison West High School, she also played tennis, softball and competed in speed skating.

After starring in field hockey in her first three years at UW, the school dropped the program, so she turned her attention to the new varsity sport on campus, soccer.

In 1981, Lunda became the first Badger women's soccer All-American. More than three decades later, she remains the UW single-season leader in goals (22), assists (18) and total points (62). Her coach, Craig Webb, believes if Karen Lunda played soccer today, she would be an Olympic gold medalist.

Lawrence Johnson also was a two-sport athlete. A Big Ten champion in four events in track, Johnson was an All-America defensive back for the Badgers in 1978. His coaches said he played man coverage better than anyone on the team, and opposing coaches must have agreed. Johnson's interception total was modest, in large part because quarterbacks would tend not to test him.

Johnson also likes to tell the story of how, in his freshman year, there was a 100-yard dash after a practice. Before the race, his new football teammates must have had little if any knowledge of Johnson's speed. Halfway through the race, they found out. Simply put, Lawrence Johnson was more than a track star who could play football, or vice-versa. He simply was a star in both sports.

Today, Badger football fans are well aware of transfer quarterbacks, but the story might not be as new as you think.

In 1950, Jim Haluska enrolled at Michigan. In time, he decided that Ann Arbor was not for him, so the Racine native returned to his home state. In 1952, he went from being the fifth-string quarterback to the starter. A few months later, Haluska led the league in completion percentage, and the Badgers were Rose Bowl-bound for the first time in school history.

Each inductee should be very proud to be a UW Athletic Hall of Famer. That elite group grows to 190 members. What already is a good "team" is about to get even better.

Position Preview: Goalkeepers

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Position Preview: Defenders | Midfielders | Forwards

The Wisconsin women's soccer team enters its 2012 campaign cautiously optimistic, as head coach Paula Wilkins and the Badgers feature a balance of battle-tested veterans and ambitious newcomers.

The Badgers return 15 letter winners from a team that went 10-7-3 last season and finished fourth in the final Big Ten standings. Among the returners is senior defender Lindsey Johnson and sophomore forward Cara Walls. Johnson returns after earning All-Big Ten second-team honors, as well as All-Great Lakes second-team accolades in 2011. Walls started 17 games as a freshman and led the Badgers in points (19) and goals (9) en route to earning a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team last season.

Wisconsin also returns senior midfielders Joana Bielefeld and Monica Lam-Feist in 2012. Bielefeld started every game last season and is poised for a successful 2012 campaign after tallying four points on two assists and a goal last season, while Lam-Feist has missed only one start over the last three years.

For the Wisconsin women's soccer team, the 2012 season will be somewhat of a rebuilding process, as the Badgers lost Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year Michele Dalton to graduation and return only five starters from 2011.

After Wilkins gave eventual conference champ Penn State its one and only loss of the Big Ten slate last season, Wisconsin looked like the team to beat en route to the conference crown. This season the Badgers are poised to regain their stature as one of the most dominant teams in the Big Ten and will look to make a run toward a conference championship and its third appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last four years.

Goalkeepers
Goalie is the most promising position for the Badgers, but is also the area that raises the most questions. Wilkins has two upperclassmen vying for the open spot in net, with junior Genevieve Richard also in the running once she returns from her trip to Japan with the Canadian National Team.

Seniors Olivia Hoff and Lauren Gunderson returned to preseason camp poised to replace Dalton in goal and have already pushed each other throughout the first few weeks of practice heading into the regular-season home opener. Gunderson and Hoff have impressed coaches in different ways so far, and Wilkins believes the competition will only make each of them even more solid as camp progresses.

It is hard to say whether either of the three has the ability to be as dominant as Dalton, who exited the UW as one of the most accomplished goalies in school history, but the fact that Wilkins has a choice between a pair of seniors and a junior, who will be returning from international play, bodes well for the Badgers heading into 2012.

ON WISCONSIN