Aug. 25, 2014
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin women's soccer head coach Paula Wilkins met with members of the media Monday at Camp Randall Stadium to review the Badgers opening their season with a pair of wins over Oregon and Tennessee. Wilkins also looked ahead to upcoming home matchups with South Dakota State and Northern Iowa.
Also in attendance was sophomore Rose Lavelle and junior Kinley McNicoll, who each represented their respective country this summer at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Canada. Rose scored her first international goal at the U-20 level as a member of the U.S. Women's National team, while McNicoll served as team captain for host Canada. Both Badgers helped lead their country into the quarterfinals.
A complete transcript of the remarks from Wilkins, Lavelle and McNicoll are below.
COACH WILKINS: For me as a coach personally, I was very excited to start this season. We ended our season last year with a little bit of disappointment, and I was really proud of our players that we spent since last December working on so many things on the field and off the field to get us to this point. I'm really excited with where a lot of our players are.
As a coach and especially coming out in our win yesterday against Tennessee, I thought we showed a lot of resilience, some toughness, some good leadership from our seniors. So I'm excited to keep moving forward with this group. As I told them after the game against Tennessee that, when you win, you have to work a little bit harder, and we have to keep moving forward.
I don't think we've hit our stride yet. So that's the favorite part for me as a coach. Also, for me, the two players beside me with Kinley McNicoll and Rose Lavelle, those guys getting experience on the international level is an exciting part for our program. And their experience that they brought back actually showed on the weekend with Rose getting a goal and Kinley getting an assist.
I'm really excited, excited about this group and looking forward to playing on Friday in front of a big crowd again.
QUESTION: For the two athletes, what was it like playing in the U-20 World Cup? How much do you think that experience will help going into this season, not just for your own game, but for your team as well?
LAVELLE: It was an awesome experience doing what I love for the country I love. It was awesome. I mean -- I don't know about the experience part. I guess -- I guess both of us playing a big role on such a big team in such a big tournament is something we can both take away and bring back, hopefully, and help our team out with that.
McNICOLL: I mean, for me, just playing -- you know, I was real excited just playing the game we love for the country we love, but for me, also playing, you know, home country, just a lot of pride.
I think, when you play at an international level, you can always take that experience and apply it elsewhere. So I think, just the lessons we learned playing at the World Cup, we can definitely apply it here.
QUESTION: Paula, what did it mean to get that overtime win on Sunday and to grit that one out?
COACH WILKINS: For me, I thought last year when we got in the situation, that you would almost kind of feel a -- oh, no, here we go again type of thing. This year, when we were talking about overtime, it was a great calm about it. I was very confident because you could feel the energy from the players.
They weren't panicked, and I think that talks about a lot of stuff we talked about in the off-season about positive self-talk and kind of creating our own success. I think for us moving forward, then they know what to do in those situations, and I think those are always great learning lessons for a team early in the season.
I said to them, when we came off at halftime -- end of the game, I said, this is just another challenge.
And it's okay, and we've got to figure out how to do that.
For me as a coach, it's a great stepping stone, but, again, not that I like to be in that situation, but I think it's a positive thing.
QUESTION: First for the players, and then Paula can answer. What are the goals of this team this year?
LAVELLE: I mean, especially after the way last year ended, it did not end as we would have liked. So going into this year, we have high expectations. We know that this team has great potential. We obviously want to bring a Big Ten Championship home.
McNICOLL: I think we want to finish on top of the league. As well as winning the Championship, we want the Big Ten title.
COACH WILKINS: I'm glad you asked them that question because I'd be interested to hear what they say. One of the things we talked about in the off-season is that, when you talk about goals sometimes, if you don't reach these small goals, it's hard to then re-adjust. We ran into that problem last year.
So a lot of stuff we talked about is effort. We talked about how we want to present ourself. We think by doing all those things, then the results of the Big Ten Championship and of the NCAAs, those are all things that will fall there.
So for me, it's making these players even better, and talking about the little things they can do off the field and the recovery stuff, that is the goals we think they can actually do that. So we talked a lot about character stuff and building on that. Then, obviously, achieving a Big Ten, I think we felt last year that we were in so many games really close and didn't capitalize on them, that that's the difference we want to make.
I think, when you talk about being on a big stage for these two, I don't know if they expressed it well enough, but that is what they bring back, the pressure of being in a big game and being in a big stage and a big scene and being that special player.
I always say that big players do big things in big games, and I think that's what they'll bring back. In fact, when you watch them play this weekend -- I'd encourage everybody to come out and see them play -- is that the game's a little bit slower for them because the international game is a lot faster. So they bring some composure back that helps all the other players. I think that's a great thing for the program.
QUESTION: Paula, with five seniors and seven juniors on this team, is this one of the most experienced teams you've coached? If so, what makes this team different than maybe others that you have coached?
COACH WILKINS: I didn't know I had that many upperclassmen. Yeah, it's a very experienced team. Maybe that's why, walking into the game on Sunday, I was very confident with them. We actually, against Tennessee, I thought we were going to have a big challenge because their game on Friday, they got to play 24 players and rest a lot of players.
After the game, for us on Friday, we had a couple of players with heat exhaustion, and we didn't know if they could recover. But I think doing things off the field right, that's learned by being older and understand the pressures of the game come from that.
It's shown by Kodee scoring a goal as a fifth year senior who wants her career to go a certain way. I think that's a huge part. We have to keep talking about that.
But on the flip side of that, I thought some of our younger players did a good job. Becca Harrison and Alexis Tye came in, and they showed some things this weekend that makes me excited for moving this group forward.
I think there's a good balance there, and I think those guys are going to get better as the season goes on.