The Wisconsin mens soccer team will have its second chance to win a Big Ten championship in the last two weeks when it heads to Columbus, Ohio for the 2006 Big Ten tournament Nov. 2-5.
The No. 3 seeded Badgers (9-7-2 overall, 3-2-1 Big Ten) will face No. 6 seed Michigan at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 2 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The winner of that match will face the winner of the Ohio State/Michigan State match-up in a semifinal at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
UW saw its dream of winning the programs first Big Ten regular season title fall just short last Friday when the team fell 1-0 at Indiana. The Badgers finished the regular season tied for second place in the Big Ten with Ohio State at 3-2-1.
The Buckeyes received the No. 2 seed based on their victory over Wisconsin in head-to-head play.
Wisconsins second-place finish in the regular season was the best by the Badgers since 2002, when five teams tied for second with identical 3-3-0 records in head coach Jeff Rohrmans first season at Wisconsin.
UW is 7-13-1 all-time in the Big Ten tournament, but has not won a match in the tournament since 2003. Wisconsin won its only conference tournament in 1995 when it shared the tournament title with Indiana because the championship match was cancelled due to unplayable conditions.
Thursdays game will mark only the second time since 2001 that the Badgers held the higher seed than their opponent in a Big Ten tournament game. The Badgers have not been seeded better than fourth since 1996, when they were the third seed.
The Wolverines (6-9-4, 1-2-3) enter the tournament having won only once in their last 10 matches, going 1-5-4 in that stretch. Their one win came against Penn State on Saturday in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan has scored just two goals in its last nine matches.
Wisconsin and Michigan have met eight times since their first match in 2000. Wisconsin defeated Michigan 2-1 in overtime back in September on an own goal, however the Wolverines hold a 6-2-0 edge in the all-time series.
The two teams have met once in the Big Ten tournament, with the Wolverines claiming a 1-0 decision in 2001 in Madison.
Although Wisconsin has lost its last three matches, the Badgers have posted three-game winning streaks twice this season. Doing so again this weekend would give UW its first outright Big Ten tournament title.
Wisconsin continues to be lead with strong defensive play from its seniors. Goalkeeper Jake Settle (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) ranks second in the Big Ten in save percentage (.794) and goals against average (0.76) while defenders Aaron Hohlbein (Middleton, Wis.) and Hamid Afsari (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) have helped the Badgers record nine shutouts.
Sophomore Victor Diaz (Madrid, Spain) has paced the UW offense with four goals and four assists for 12 points. Four players are tied for second on the team with three goals, including senior Reid Johnson (Mequon, Wis.).
The Badgers begin what they hope will be a long tournament run against Michigan at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio.