Aug. 4, 2014
BY BRANDON HARRISON
UW Athletic Communications
With Wisconsin women's soccer beginning preseason this week, we sat down with head coach Paula Wilkins and covered a number of topics heading into 2014. Each day this week, we'll expand on discussed topics, such as keys to 2014, Badgers in the U-20 World Cup, veteran experience and leadership, players to watch and the impact of freshmen.
The Badgers report for team meetings on Tuesday, then hit the field for the first time Wednesday morning for fitness testing. The group will face Marquette in an exhibition matchup on Aug. 14, then officially begin the season Aug. 22 at home against Oregon.
• Monday: Three Keys to 2014
• Tuesday: Badgers in the World Cup
• Wednesday: Veteran Experience
• Thursday: Players to Watch
• Friday: Freshmen Impact
MADISON, Wis. -- With the Wisconsin women's soccer team reporting back to Madison this week for its first official team meetings and practices of the 2014 season, expectations and goals will begin taking shape soon within the locker room.
Today, we look at three keys to 2014 as the Badgers get set to begin work toward a Big Ten championship and 18th appearance in the NCAA tournament in program history.
VETERAN VIBE: Wisconsin returns one of the most experienced lineups in the country this fall. The Badgers bring back 10 starters from last season after the departure of only one this summer. Returning are redshirt seniors Alexandra Heller, Genevieve Richard and Kodee Williams, as well as seniors Cara Walls, Nikki Greenhalgh and seven juniors.
UW will see 88.6 percent of its goal scoring from last season return, led by redshirt senior Cara Walls who netted nine goals in 2013. Kinley McNicoll and Rose Lavelle each scored six goals last year. Even more notable, Lavelle, McNicoll and Walls combined to score 21 of UW's 35 goals last season, equating to 60 percent of the team's goal scoring alone.
One can't forget the return of redshirt senior Richard in goal, either. Wilkins would argue Richard played at an All-Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year level last season. Those over in the USL W-League would vouch for the praise of Richard, after she was recently named the summer league's Goalkeeper of the Year for a second consecutive season.
WILKINS: "One of the biggest things heading into this season is that we have a lot of returners. We lost one starter. We bring back a very seasoned, experienced group. A lot of our scoring has come back. The players have gotten to know each other a little bit better through the spring, so their relationships with each other on the field has gotten even better.
"I think there's a confidence about this group, because of that experience and because they were in so many close games last year."
DYNAMIC DUO: Last season, Lavelle became the first player in program history to be tabbed conference feshman of the year. A member of the Big Ten's All-Freshman team, the breakout newcomer was also named Big Ten Freshman of the Week (Sept. 16).
|Rose Lavelle returns for the 2014 season after becoming the first player in program history to be named conference freshman of the year.
A former All-Freshman honoree herself, McNicoll will also play an important role this season. The junior led UW with a team-leading 25 points last season, including six goals and 13 assists, to earn second team All-Big Ten accolades.
Both Lavelle (USA) and McNicoll (Canada) will also rejoin the team with the added experience of playing in the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup this August in Canada. Key contributors on their respective national squads, McNicoll will also serve as team captain.
WILKINS: "I think they have to build that experience of being in big games and winning big games. They'll both be called on by their countries--especially Kinley being the captain--as the program success of both of those teams is going to be based on them a bit. Having them then bring back that maturity and experience is going to be key for us."
FRESHMAN FOCUS: For as much as there is to focus on and be optimistic about with the returners this season, sit down with members of the coaching staff for 10 minutes and they'll have you just as excited for the potential of this year's newcomers.
Made up of six newcomers from across the country, Wilkins feels the 2014 freshman class in particular is one that bolsters the Badgers and could enhance the team by providing new looks and dimensions.
Whether a freshman earns her keep in the starting lineup this season or not, having the option to call upon someone from the bench that can step in and not only have an impact, but change the game, is something that makes a good team a great team.
WILKINS: "The freshmen all bring different dimensions. They have to come in here and believe that they're going to be a starter and be an impact player. The freshman class will push the upperclassmen. A lot of them will have important roles that they'll play
"I think when we bring them into the game, they will change the game."