Aug. 13, 2013
By Jeremy Wodajo
UW Athletic Communications
MADISON, Wis. -- We are less than 48 hours away from the first official practice of 2013 for the UW men's soccer squad.
All the meetings are done, all the papers have been signed and all the T's have been crossed. The only thing left to do to is go out and play soccer - a relaxing and also anxious state of mind for a bunch of upperclassmen leaders who are ready to begin a journey toward something they believe will be special in 2013.
"That first practice will be intense," Chris Prince said. "Everyone's vying for a spot in the starting lineup and a spot on this team so I can see it being the most intense preseason in my three years here and we're definitely not going to let anyone have an easy time. It's definitely going to be a battle."
Prince, who was recently named a team captain by both coaches and teammates, will enter his second season as a leader of the Badgers after also earning the title in 2012. Fellow senior Paul Yonga will join Prince as a second year captain while 2011 first-team All-Big Ten honoree Tomislav Zadro rounds out the trio.
"Being named a captain for a second time is a big deal for me with it being my last year," Yonga said. "To be considered a leader and a captain by your coach and teammates on a team that has 13 seniors is a great feeling."
The three Badgers endured many hardships during their time as underclassmen and are ready to turn that struggle into success on the field this season.
"I can definitely tell a difference this year. We have a strong sense of a winning mentality. All the younger guys grab onto that because we all want the same thing."
That winning attitude and positive mentality has already been on display off the field as the team continues to mentally prep for the challenges and triumphs that will characterize 2013.
"I can definitely tell a difference this year," Zadro said. "With so many seniors everyone is that much more committed because we know this is our last go at it and everyone just wants to win badly.
"We have that strong sense of a winning mentality. All the younger guys grab onto that because we all want the same thing."
The excitement that has been building is justified and to an extent, is fostered by the three captains, who began emphasizing the focus, hard work and attention to detail it will take to be successful back in the spring when the Badgers went unbeaten in six matches.
That intensity has carried over to the team meetings and voluntary workouts this past offseason and the team has made a point to make sure the freshmen and all incoming Badgers are aware of the mentality.
"We've already started to try and set the tone among the team and the newcomers and make it known how excited we are for this upcoming season," Prince added. "I'm aware we haven't had the greatest three years here but I truly believe this is going to be a memorable season.
"We're definitely looking to be at the top of the Big Ten and looking forward to the Big Ten tournament as well because we've come up short these past three seasons. I think if we do well there we will have a lot of positive momentum heading into the NCAA tournament."
The team welcomes six newcomers into the fold in 2013 and as is always the case with UW head coach John Trask and his staff, the door is wide open for anyone to earn playing time.
Away from the field, the Badgers' optimism is refreshing to say the least. The team enters preseason training injury free and with a renewed sense of hunger that comes from a great group of leaders that help the group stay grounded while also constantly reminding them of their long-term goals each and every day.
"So now that both [Yonga and Prince] are seniors and have one year of being captains under their belt, each of them is using their strengths to guide this team," senior defender Blake Succa said. "Zadro, on the other hand, is a bit older than everyone else so he's more mature and he knows what to say to certain players and how to carry himself around the team and demand respect, and that goes for all three of them. They all know how to demand respect, especially from the younger guys.
"We are in very good hands to say the least."