When the Badgers return to the field this weekend looking to bounce back from consecutive losses, they will do so in an event that has treated them well over the years.
The 36th annual Panther Invitational kicks off Friday at Engelmann Field in Milwaukee, with the Badgers making their 19th appearance in the event since 1979 and looking to add to the six tournament titles theyve won.
Over that span, the Badgers have put together a 24-12 record in the event. That includes a perfect 2-0 mark for the weekend on eight separate occasions. The last time that happened was 2006, as UW went 1-1 in both 2007 and 2008.
Wisconsin has won 71 percent of its games in the Panther Invitational since Engelmann opened in 1984, going 24-10. All-time, the Badgers own a 26-16-5 (.606) mark at the stadium.
The Badgers face Oakland (2-2-1) at 5 p.m. on Friday and then take on No. 9 UC Santa Barbara (4-1-0) at noon on Sunday.
This weekend marks the beginning of a stretch of six consecutive games against 2008 NCAA Tournament teams for the Badgers. Both Oakland (first round) and UCSB (second round) played in the Big Dance last season, as did the next four opponents on the Badgers slate: Indiana, Illinois-Chicago, Michigan and Michigan State.
Following their game against Oakland on Friday, the Badgers will face seven consecutive opponents that have been ranked or received votes in the NSCAA/adidas Top 25 poll so far this season. Six of those squads are listed in this weeks rankings:
9. UC Santa Barbara
18. Michigan State
RV. UW-Green Bay
The Badgers losses over the weekend marked the first consecutive setbacks for the team since falling to Western Illinois and Michigan State in back-to-back 1-0 losses last season.
Wisconsin hasnt lost three straight since dropping four in a row to end the 2006 season and hasnt lost three-consecutive non-conference game since 2005.
The Badgers have gone 29 consecutive matches without being awarded a penalty kick, dating back to Oct. 13, 2007. The last time a UW player converted a penalty kick attempt into a goal was one game earlier, when Sho Fujita netted a PK in a 1-1 tie with Milwaukee on Oct. 10, 2007.
UW opponents have not faced a similar drought, however, as the Badgers have given up five penalty-kick goals since their last try from the penalty spot.
Of those, three were game-winning scores and one was a game-tying goal. Two came within the final minute of play, while three were awarded within the last six minutes of a match.
Most notable among those are the PK Michigan scored with 24 seconds left to force overtime and an eventual tie with the Badgers on Sept. 27, 2008; the game-winning PK Michigan State netted with six minutes to go on the way to a 1-0 win over UW on Oct. 5, 2008; and the back-to-back game-winning PKs for San Diego (Sept. 11) and San Diego State (Sept. 13) over the weekend.
Sophomore midfielder Austin Spohn has assisted on all three of the Badgers goals this season, including both of UWs scores against San Diego State senior goalkeeper Alex Horwath saw his run of consecutive minutes in goal halted at 1,066 when he was lifted in the 37th minute of Sundays match against San Diego State because of a finger injury Horwath has started 26 consecutive games in goal for the Badgers with his eight saves over the weekend, Horwath also moved into eighth place on the Badgers all-time saves list with 151 for his career freshman Ata Ozbay, who has played in each of UWs four games this season, made his first career start against San Diego State Mark Roos, who has been in the starting 11 for all four matches, is the Badgers other first-time starter this season sophomore forward Ross Seagram tallied his first goal as a Badger in Sundays 3-2 loss to San Diego State, converting on his first shot and in his first appearance at UW also making his UW debut was sophomore keeper Jamal Habibi, who logged 27 minutes in relief of Horwath the Badgers gave up three goals in back-to-back contests for the first time since consecutive 3-0 losses to Michigan State (Sept. 30) and Northwestern (Oct. 6) in 2007