After spending the first half running against the wind, the Wisconsin mens soccer team spent the second period of Sundays clash running away with a win.
The Badgers countered an early score by Penn State with four unanswered goals in the second period to snap a 12-game winless streak in Big Ten Conference play with a 4-1 victory on Senior Day at the McClimon Complex.
Four players found the back of the net for the Badgers, who equaled their highest-scoring performance of the season, and senior athid=5211&deptid=122"> --> Victor Diaz tallied a career-high three assists as the UW claimed its first conference win since a 2-0 triumph over Penn State on Oct. 15, 2006.
We knew we had a great team, and it might be a little late in the season, but thats really showing now, Diaz said. We just have to keep it going.
Dominant in terms of possession in the second half, the Badgers (8-6-2, 1-4-1 Big Ten) held Penn State scoreless over the games final 76 minutes and limited the Nittany Lions (4-9-2, 1-3-0) to just eight shots for the contest, which was the Badgers final conference matchup of the season.
Junior goalkeeper athid=6384&deptid=122"> --> Alex Horwath was called on to stop just four shots on goal by the Lions and finished with three saves. With his 14th career victory, Horwath moved into a tie with UW assistant coach Nick Pasquarello for 10th on the Badgers all-time wins list.
On the other end, the Badgers put plenty of offensive pressure on PSU in the second half.
The Nittany Lions were forced to play shorthanded over the final 33 minutes after Mattheus Braga was issued a red card. The Badgers also benefitted from playing with the gusty conditions in their favor in the second half after battling a 20-25 mph headwind in the opening period.
In the first half we couldnt play; all the balls were coming back to us, said Diaz, who moved into ninth on the UWs all-time career assists list with 18. The second half we just kept going and going, and thats what we had to do.
The Lions broke open the scoring when Braga dished a pass to Drew Cost, who blasted a shot past Horwath from the top of the box in the 14th minute. And, while the remainder of the first period was largely a battle in the midfield, the Badgers broke through in a big way after intermission.
It helped to have a wind at our back, and to play a man up certainly helped our cause, but we also had to score the goals, UW head coach staffid=350"> --> Jeff Rohrman said. Give our guys credit, we played very, very well in the second half.
Junior Taylor Waspi had the equalizer for the UW in the 56th minute, as he converted a corner kick by senior Zack Lambo with a header he directed down and out of the reach of PSU keeper Liam Fitzwater.
The Badgers then took the lead for good seven minutes later, as junior athid=5599&deptid=122"> --> Eric Conklin notched his first goal of the season as he collected a through ball from Diaz and fired a shot inside the far post.
Junior Scott Lorenz was next to find the back of the net, scoring his team-leading eighth goal of the year on a short-range poke off a nice combination from athid=6004&deptid=122"> --> Brandon Miller to Diaz. The score gave the Badgers a comfortable 3-1 lead.
Miller then got his chance three minutes later, as Diaz fed athid=6603&deptid=122"> --> Aaron Nichols to set up a serve that Miller headed past Fitzwater to make it 4-1 in favor of the Badgers. The goal capped a scoring barrage that saw the Badgers score four times in the span of just 15 minutes.
The goals were there, said Rohrman. We just needed to execute better than we did in the first half and our guys responded and did that in the second half.
Diaz and Lambo were two of the four UW seniors to be honored before the game, along with midfielder athid=5598&deptid=122"> --> Kenny Dix and defender athid=5600&deptid=122"> --> Andy Miller .
Its a great feeling, Diaz said. After four years playing here, its a great feeling and recognition for everything weve helped put into this program.
The Badgers face a pair of non-conference foes to wrap up the regular season, beginning with a road contest Wednesday against Northern Illinois. Game time is set for 3:30 p.m. in DeKalb, Ill.