Nov. 9, 2009
MADISON, Wis. -- As he prepares to lead the Wisconsin men's soccer team into his first Big Ten tournament as head coach, Todd Yeagley offered a preview of the event for members of the media Monday as part of UW Athletics' weekly press conference.
A complete transcript of Yeagley's remarks is available below, and archived video of his session can be found on InsideBadgerSports.com.
The No. 4 seed, Wisconsin takes on fifth-seeded Indiana in the second of three quarterfinal matchups Thursday in Bloomington, Ind. The Badgers and Hoosiers will kick off at 11:30 a.m. (Central) in Yeagley's second match against his alma mater since taking over as head coach at UW.
Indiana won the teams' first meeting this season, claiming a 1-0 victory at the McClimon Complex on Sept. 25.
The match also will mark Yeagley's first action as a head coach on Jerry Yeagley Field, which is named for his father, who coached IU to six NCAA championships. Todd Yeagley was a four-time All-American for his father at Indiana and then served as an assistant coach with the Hoosiers for six seasons before coming to Madison.
COACH YEAGLEY: First off, we're very excited for the weekend ahead. We finished 3-3 in our conference, which made a lot of strides with this group, more wins than they've had in conference the last few years. So we're very pleased. Obviously the seeding, the way other teams finished, we lost a tiebreaker with the fifth seed and face Indiana, who had a disappointing season, as the No. 4 seed. So we have a very difficult task ahead of us with the matchup on Thursday. But our players are really believing, they're confident. They came off a good win on Thursday, last week against Milwaukee, and the team is feeling good.
If we can get a few boys healthy and raring to go, we'll definitely put together a very good performance Thursday in Bloomington. And if we have a few positive results there, go deep in the tournament, we have postseason opportunities potentially ahead of us. So there's a lot to play for, we're very excited, and look forward to getting things going on Thursday.
QUESTION #1: Is your team's health a major concern, and anybody in particular that you're more concerned about than others?
YEAGLEY: This time of year, I think we all know that you're going to be banged up a bit, and we certainly have a few that are. Our goalkeeper (Alex Horwath) has been dealing with a hamstring . . . we have a field player taking goal kicks, which is not what you want, but it works. Aaron Nichols was hurt last week, a big player for us. Hopefully he'll be back for the weekend. And then there's about three that are just fighting through some things that we certainly hope that they can get through, and the adrenaline and what we're playing for helps those injuries and put it behind them. But it's a group that is banged up a little bit.
QUESTION #2: When you came into this year, did you have expectations of what you could accomplish, whether it be the record you had in the Big Ten, knocking on the door for an NCAA bid?
YEAGLEY: Our goal was to put ourselves in position in the Big Ten, and I think based on where the team has been, we've made big strides with, again, one win in conference in the last two seasons. And we won three this year and were very close in the others. Take away the Michigan game, which we played down a man the entire second half, it was not a true result from the standpoint of our performance. So I feel very good.
We played Indiana extremely tight here at home in the first (Big Ten) game of the season, a 1-0 game. We tested them, and the other ones were close. So we made tremendous strides in the Big Ten. However, I want this program to be at the top, fighting for championships, and we're not there yet, but the results this year were a positive step.
The NCAA tournament has eluded the program for quite a few years, and this group of seniors were very hungry, and they still are, and it's still there to potentially be had. But again, we're obviously being patient. We have a big picture in mind, but we want to achieve and obviously keep rolling here as the season progresses. But we have a difficult challenge this weekend.
QUESTION #3: Todd, a little bit of irony or somewhat appropriate that you're facing Indiana? And and when you said Indiana had a disappointing season, it almost sounded like that was an old Indiana coach talking.
YEAGLEY: They did have a disappointing season. Indiana nearly .500 this time of year is not where they usually are, and in the Big Ten, being 3-3. So it is a bit ironic that we are playing Indiana in the first game, at their place, first game back for me in Bloomington. But if you're going to win, you're going to have to play Indiana to go to a championship, and when you do it in a first game, we're going to be our freshest, and certainly they are.
I like playing them this game, and our players know that after the season, there's no one that they fear in this league. We talked about it after each performance and after the season, and the three teams Indiana lost to this season in Big Ten play are the three teams that we beat, and that's something that we've talked about as well.
So we have to play to our full potential to get a positive result in this game. And the storylines and the subplots, although they're interesting, once the game begins, I know where my focus will be, making sure that we put our best foot forward. Although it is an interesting one being back in a stadium and on a field that's named after your father. It makes it a quite interesting experience.
QUESTION #4: Todd, you see that Ohio State is the No. 1 seed. You beat them. Penn State is No. 2. You lost by a goal to them. I think Northwestern is the third seed. You beat them. Seeding really doesn't matter in this tournament, it doesn't seem like. Is that correct?
YEAGLEY: It doesn't in the sense that we are very tight, top to bottom. The No. 1 seed, the advantage that you get with only seven teams in the conference (is that it) gives you the bye on Thursday. So Ohio State has a distinct advantage having the Thursday off and coming into Friday's semifinal fresh, which would be the team that we would play. So that is where the regular season becomes very crucial is to get that No. 1 seed.
Once that seed is in place, it's really, at this point, these last three, four, five years with Northwestern's progression to how they play, anyone can beat anyone on the day. You just want to be playing your best form this time of year.
So you know, Ohio State is in a good position with the day off, but our guys felt great. We could have walked away with a 4-0 victory in the day. That was one of our best games of the year. So I know if we take care of business Thursday, our players are going to be very confident going into Ohio State's match.