Dec. 3, 2013
MADISON, Wis. -- During a season characterized by resiliency and record-breaking performances, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team carried out UW head coach John Trask’s four-year plan with a remarkable campaign, which included earning an NCAA tournament berth for the first time since 1995, posting the fifth most wins in program history (14) and extending a home unbeaten streak longer than any other team in the country (14).
“It was great to see a group of guys realize their dreams as student-athletes here at Wisconsin,” Trask said. “To see these guys not only come in second place [in the Big Ten] but get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, which is what it's all about, it was really exciting for my staff and the players involved with this program.”
After a hot start in which UW won five out of its first six games, including a last-second regulation goal against DePaul, leading to an eventual overtime win, and two solid victories on the road against South Florida and Florida Gulf Coast, the Badgers dropped two straight matches.
The team responded from arguably its lowest point of 2013, though, rattling off four wins at home to gain confidence moving into the final stretch of the season.
Wisconsin defeated I-94 rival Marquette, 1-0, in a hard-fought and physical in-state battle. The Badgers then took down reigning national champion Indiana on Oct. 11 in one of the most memorable comeback victories in McClimon Complex history. The team netted three goals in a 25-minute span to seal just the fifth win all-time against the Hoosiers.
“We were pretty resilient,” Trask said. “Depending whether it's referees or field conditions or being down a goal here or there this year, this group found a way to get it done.
“I think there was a belief in them.”
UW’s sweep of the four-game home stand gave the team a little momentum heading into Big Ten play and also jump-started the Badgers’ historic home unbeaten streak.
Although it fell to Michigan in Ann Arbor on Oct. 23, Wisconsin went on to record four wins and one tie in its last six regular season games.
The team finished 4-2-0 in the Big Ten, earning the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament. It was just the fifth time in the 21-year history of the Big Ten men’s soccer tournament that the Badgers were seeded second or better.
But avenging a late regular season defeat at the hands of Wisconsin, seventh-seeded Northwestern narrowly eliminated the Badgers from Big Ten tournament contention on a chilly night in Columbus, Ohio.
"It was great to see a group of guys realize their dreams as student-athletes here at Wisconsin...I think there was a belief in them."
- John Trask
Despite an early and abrupt exit from the conference tournament, the team was by no means discouraged. It had already amassed enough quality wins to warrant a spot in the NCAA tournament.
Snapping an 18-year drought of failing to reach the Big Dance, UW was awarded a home match against familiar foe Milwaukee in the first round of the tournament.
The Badgers completed an undefeated home slate with a 1-0 win against the Panthers. The victory also gave Wisconsin the longest active NCAA win streak (six)—a stretch in which the Badgers posted six consecutive shutouts—and extended the nation’s longest active home unbeaten streak to 14 matches, which will be carried over into its third season in 2014.
“We love Madison,” Trask said. “The guys love to play at home. The field is absolutely beautiful. We're starting to get a lot of fans. A lot of people from the community, student sections cheering us on, and it's a nice place to play.”
On Nov. 24, Wisconsin travelled to South Bend, Ind., to take on third-seeded Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament’s round of 32.
Unfortunately the quick, explosive play of the Fighting Irish was too much for the Badgers, as they lost 4-0. The deficit marked the most goals the team had surrendered all season and just the second time it had been shut out.
Although it was a bitter end to a memorable season, there’s much praise to give and potential to look forward to within the Wisconsin men’s soccer program.
“Some of the soccer played by these guys, I wouldn't have told you two years ago that I thought they could do it,” Trask said. “We had a lot of good training days this year.
“We didn’t miss a lot of man hours other than a couple guys having surgery, and that's helped as well in this process.”
Senior Tomislav Zadro earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and was named the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. Junior AJ Cochran accompanied Zadro on the first-team and was awarded the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award. Wisconsin joined Ohio State as the only two teams in conference history to have two players earn Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the same season.
With his impressive performance on the field this season, senior Nick Janus was also a first-team all-conference honoree.
UW graduated 13 seniors, including the team’s goals and points leader (Janus) and assists leader (Zadro), but returns a wealth of talent for the 2014 campaign.
Midfielder Drew Conner will be back for his junior season after earning second-team All-Big Ten honors this year. Casey Beyers, who started Wisconsin’s first thirteen matches in net, going 9-3-1 and posting a 1.37 goals against average, returns with experience between the posts, as well.
Junior Jacob Brindle, the team's second-leading scorer in 2013 (17 points, 8 goals), will headline a stout 2014 senior class that includes defender David Caban. Brindle, who recorded UW's first hat trick since 2010 this past season, will look to fill the offensive void left by first-team All-Big Ten performers Zadro and Janus.
Youngsters, Brian Hail and Nick Jones, both shined for UW in 2013, earning spots on the Big Ten’s All-Freshman Team and will look to improve on their accomplishment in the coming season.
Wisconsin proved to be the Big Ten’s offensive powerhouse, registering a conference-best 117 points, 39 goals and 1.86 goals per game. UW also placed second in assists (39) and assists per game (1.86) and third in shots (285).
After almost two decades of falling short of the NCAA tournament, the Badgers turned it around in 2013, earning recognition as one of the premiere collegiate men’s soccer programs in the country.
“I want to see this place back to where it rightfully should be, but I didn't have any time frame on it,” Trask said. “It's probably come a little bit quicker than I thought, and we're a little bit better than I thought we'd be in all honesty. And that's down to these kids.
“Couldn't have happened to a nicer group of guys and guys that have been dedicated since the moment they walked onto this campus.”