Fresh off last weeks upset over No. 9 Penn State, the Wisconsin mens soccer team (5-6-0, 1-1-0 Big Ten Conference) has a chance to knock off another ranked competitor, Big Ten rival and reigning national championNo. 3 Indiana (8-2-1, 3-0-0 Big Ten) Friday at 7 p.m. in Bloomington, Ind. A win would bring the Badgers back to .500 on the seasona place they havent been since September 19 when they beat Drake to improve to 3-3.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, they have not had much luck against the Hoosiers in the past. In 26 years Wisconsin has played Indiana 31 times, collecting just three wins. The Badgers last win was in 1995 when they went on to win the NCAA title. Last year, the teams faced off in conference play for a 3-0 Hoosier victory. Later, in the Big Ten championships the team met again. This time the Badgers and Hoosiers battled through 80 minutes of scoreless action before Indiana snuck one in the net and held on for the win.
The Badgers 1995 win was the last time Indiana was beaten in Big Ten play. IU is currently riding a 49-game regular-season conference winning streak, a 10-game winning streak against Wisconsin and a 30-match unbeaten streak at their home, Yeagley Field. Averaging 3,454 people at each home game, it is easy to see why other teams may be intimidated. Indiana remains the most-watched team in all of college soccer.
The Hoosiers are off to a fierce start in 2004 winning their first three conference games against Michigan State, Penn State and Michiganthree formidable opponents. Their two non-conference losses came against No. 11 UC-Santa Barbara and New Mexico in back-to-back games; however both were 1-0 losses in double overtime.
For Indiana, defense wins games. The team has only allowed nine goals in 11 games (0.82 goals/game), which leads the Big Ten. The defense is anchored by senior goalkeeper Jay Nolly, who has won the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award twice this year. He also leads the conference in shutouts with three. Fellow senior, defender Danny ORourke has also been awarded defensive conference honors this year.
Sophomore Jacob Peterson, Indianas threat up top, is not letting the defense steal all the honors. He also has been named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week twice. Petersons seven goals are enough for third in the conference and four of those goals have been game-winners. He is seventh in the conference in points per game behind Wisconsins own Jed Hohlbein and Nick Van Sicklen. Fellow Hoosier teammate, Kevin Robson is the distributor notching six assists on the season, which is second in the conference. But it was junior Pat Yates that gave Wisconsin headaches in 2003, as he scored a goal in both of the Wisconsin-Indiana match-ups. Yates, however, has yet to score in his 2004 season.
Look for senior captain Nick Van Sicklen to continue to build on his outstanding performance last week. Indiana will be heavily marking him, however, so this game is an excellent opportunity for the younger Badgers to step up and show what they can do. Senior goalkeeper Eric Hanson and the Wisconsin defense are still in the hunt for their first shutout of the season, and there would be no better game then Indiana.
After the crucial conference match-up against the Hoosiers, Wisconsin will remain on the road to play DePaul (2-9-3 and 0-4-1 Conference USA) who is struggling offensively this season with only ten total goals. The Badgers have had great success against DePaul with a 6-0 all-time record, and a 2-1 victory in 2003. Stay tuned to uwbadgers.com for all the results and updates from this weekends important away games.