The Wisconsin mens soccer team will put its five-game unbeaten streak on the line when it plays host to Western Illinois at 6 p.m. tonight at McClimon Soccer Complex.
Tonight is UW Student Night as well as Crocs Giveaway Night at McClimon. All UW students who show a valid student ID will receive free admission as well as a free pair of Crocs, while supplies last.
The Badgers (6-3-2 overall, 2-0-1 Big Ten) recorded two home wins last week, including a 1-0 victory over previously unbeaten and No. 7-ranked Illinois-Chicago last Thursday. The team then returned to McClimon on Sunday and shut out Northwestern 2-0 to claim sole possession of first place in the Big Ten halfway through conference play.
For the first time since head coach Jeff Rohrmans first year with the team, Wisconsin has claimed a spot in the national polls. The Badgers are ranked 22nd in both the Soccer America Mens Top 25 and the SoccerTimes.com Top 25 Coaches Poll and 24th in the College Soccer News Top 30 National Poll.
Rohrman attributes his teams success to the leadership provided by the eight seniors on the roster. As juniors last year, those players were involved in seven one-goal losses and suffered through a frustrating seven-game losing streak in the middle of the season.
This season looked like it could have been headed in a similar direction after one-goal losses to Southern Methodist, Washington and Creighton in the first six games despite improved play. Likewise, a goal by Michigan in the 90th minute of the following game could have derailed the Badgers.
However, the team pulled together on the field immediately following the goal and one fortunate bounce in overtime against the Wolverines may have changed the course of the season.
I think we have had greater commitment from everyone on the team this year and our senior leadership has been outstanding, Rohrman said in explaining his teams perseverance.
Our seniors have really bought in to what were trying to do, both on and off the field. They have been tremendous leaders and have done a very good job of keeping us focused.
Since UWs overtime win against Michigan, the Badgers have yet to lose and have claimed first place in the Big Ten standings. Wisconsin set out two main goals at the beginning of the year and one of them was to win the league title. Doing so will require UW to beat the leagues other top three teams in successive conference games.
We have three great Big Ten opponents left and we know its going to be a very challenging road, Rohrman stated.
Wisconsins other goal, claiming the programs first spot in the NCAA tournament field since 1995, is also still within reach.
Winning the Big Ten and making the NCAA tournament are still the goals and we know that our remaining non-conference games are going to be very important, Rohrman said.
The Badgers have gained the attention of pollsters for the first time since 2002, but Rohrman is not worried that his team will be overconfident heading into their non-conference game against Western Illinois on Wednesday not only because of the games potential implications for an NCAA bid, but also because of the maturity of his team.
If we had a young team it might be a concern, but were a very mature team and I am not worried about us becoming overconfident at all, Rohrman explained. Being ranked is confirmation that were doing well through 11 games, but our goal is to still be there through 18 games.
The Leathernecks (7-4-0) ride into Madison on a four-game winning streak of their own, including a 5-0 win over Drake in the teams most recent game on Sept. 27.
Western Illinois is led by freshman Martin Browne, who boasts eight goals and 18 points in 11 games this season. Freshman goalkeeper Stephen Paterson has logged the vast majority of the time in net, clocking roughly 90 percent of all minutes played by WIU keepers.
Wisconsin is 5-2-1 all-time against Western Illinois, but the two teams have not met since 1988. The two teams played to a scoreless draw in their last meeting on Oct. 22, 1988. The Badgers are 3-1-0 all-time against Western Illinois in Madison.
Wisconsin and Western Illinois will face off at McClimon Soccer Complex tonight. Kick off is set for 6 p.m. and all UW students who show a valid student ID will receive free admission as well as a free pair of Crocs, while supplies last.