With the Wisconsin men's soccer team in the midst of its spring training schedule, UWBadgers.com caught up with first-year head coach Todd Yeagley to get his thoughts on the state of his new team. This is the first of four stories previewing the Badgers' spring season, which includes home games at Camp Randall Stadium on April 10 and April 15.
A long winter has given way to spring for the Wisconsin mens soccer team.
If not in terms of weather, at least in terms of competition anyway.
More than four months removed from a disappointing end to a strong 2008 season, the Badgers will break free of indoor training on Saturday for the first match of their six-game spring exhibition season. UW will make the short drive to Rockford, Ill., to meet up with Loyola (Ill.) in a match that begins at 2:30 p.m.
The spring season is always a time for adjustment, but the Badgers learning curve is steeper than most, with a change in coaching staff and the loss of four starters from last years team that finished 9-7-3.
Spring Preview Series
- sportid=122&storyid=17534"> --> Planting the Seeds for Success (April 1)
- sportid=122&storyid=17558"> --> Who, What, Where (April 3)
- No Lack of Leaders (April 6)
- Defensive by Design (April 8)
Todd Yeagley, who was hired as UWs fifth mens soccer head coach on Dec. 18, inherits plenty of talent, as the Badgers return seven of their 11 starters -- and eight of their top 10 scorers -- from a season ago.
The spring is an important evaluation time for the team, Yeagley said. For the staff, its an opportunity to see how players are developing and really start to get a picture of what next season will look like.
That picture is more like a puzzle heading into the Badgers first spring match, as most of the pieces are in place and its just a matter of finding the proper arrangement. Determining who fits where in Yeagleys system is a major goal.
This is when we try to find the right mix of players for next fall, Yeagley said.
The team is well into its spring workout schedule, which has seen the Badgers move from basic drills and small-group work inside the McClain Center to competitive scrimmages on the field at Camp Randall Stadium. In the process of evaluating his team, Yeagley says there is no substitute for lining up against another teams starting 11, however.
We wanted to give the team some tough competition, a little bit at home, a little bit on the road, and make it as close to the fall as we can, Yeagley said. The competition were going to play will provide that for us.
UWs competition schedule is comprised of six matches against NCAA tournament teams from a year ago, as well as three clubs that tallied at least 12 wins last season.
That includes the Badgers first opponent, Loyola, which went 12-6-4 last season on its way to the Horizon League tournament title and a spot in the NCAAs.
Yeagley and his staff will do what they can to provide a regular-season environment for the Badgers slate of preseason games.
Were going to push them to have the same approach as they would in the fall, he said.
Beyond the normal scope of spring training, though, the Badgers also have faced the challenge of adapting to Yeagleys approach on the field. In turn, the coaching staff has had to acclimate itself with the players, as well.
Weve done a lot more teaching in small-group settings than we would in a traditional spring, Yeagley said. Because were new to all the players, we really need to find out where theyre all at individually.
Overall, Yeagley has been impressed by what he has seen during workouts and in scrimmages.
The players have responded very well to what weve asked of them in training, and thats been great, he said. Weve challenged them that we need to make improvements every day, individually and collectively. If we do that, it will have been a successful spring that we can use as a springboard into the fall.
- sportid=122&storyid=17212"> --> Camp Randall games highlight spring schedule
- sportid=122&storyid=17087"> --> Yarborough joins men's soccer coaching staff
- sportid=122&storyid=16715"> --> Yeagley talks Badgers with Top Drawer Soccer