Women’s soccer end season with mixed emotions

first_imgExpectations were high, possibly for a Big Ten title, but the season did not go quite according to plan for the Wisconsin women’s soccer team, especially after having to swallow a 2-0 loss to a lower-seeded Minnesota team in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament Nov. 2.Five days later, the season officially came to the end as the team sat through the NCAA Tournament selection show only for Wisconsin’s (10-7-3, 5-3-3) name not to be called.“We had kind of known that we were on the outside looking in,” head coach Paula Wilkins said. “I think the games at the end of the season where we didn’t perform so well against Iowa and Minnesota kind of affected that process. … We are surprised about Ohio State and some other teams that got in, and I think that maybe stung a little bit more knowing that we were probably really, really close.”For a very talented senior class that included 2011 Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year Michele Dalton and returning first team All-Big Ten selections from a year ago, forward Laurie Nosbusch and defender Meghan Flannery, it was a tough way to end their collegiate careers.“I think it is hard for them to articulate [their emotions] as soon as the season is over,” Wilkins said. “Obviously, disappointment on how it went and ended; you never want to end your career in that fashion, and since [the seniors] have done so much to move the program forward, it was a bit of a letdown.”From start to finish, the Badgers were never able to find a level of consistent play that would allow them to attain their preseason goals.Highlights like Wisconsin’s 1-0 win over Penn State – the Nittany Lions’ only conference loss of the season – and lowlights like a 1-0 loss at home to Ohio State, who finished seventh in the Big Ten, were examples of the type of rollercoaster campaign the Badgers had in 2011.“Against good teams and bad teams, we weren’t very consistent,” Wilkins said. “I was in the football locker room, and one of their goals is ‘Make every day a big day and make every game a big game,’ and I don’t think we did that. I think part of it was trying to rest on our laurels from last year and understanding that it takes work and focus in every game and being consistent in every game, and I think that’s something as a coach I take away that I need to be better at with this program.”The Badgers certainly didn’t lack star power. Besides the three aforementioned All-Big Ten seniors, the Badgers also had second team All-Big Ten defender Lindsey Johnson and All-Freshman Team selection Cara Walls, who led the team in goals and points.The lack of a concrete reason for the Badgers’ struggles leaves much for UW to learn moving forward if it wants to be competitive next season.“If you don’t learn from something and take the emotion that you are feeling and motivate you, I think you are missing an opportunity,” Wilkins said. “One thing is sometimes emotion only lasts for a week, and I think keeping that emotion alive throughout the spring and in the summer when they come back in the fall is going to be the most important thing and is going to fall to the leadership of some of the players.”Wisconsin’s season has been barely over for a week, and already the soccer calendar has been turned to the 2012 season, and amid recruiting tasks, the coaching staff is making sure that the Badgers are putting forth full effort into preparing.“The work started today for them, so no rest for the weary,” Wilkins said. “Some people take the idea that you need some rest, but this program wants to go and be playing into December. I think the expectations for their bodies, they need to still be doing stuff at this point, and the teams that are still playing are still getting better. They are training and doing things, so we can’t lose the opportunity to do that.”Following the realization that the season was over, Wilkins heard encouraging comments from multiple players returning for next season that she and her coaching staff hope to channel into more points in the standings.“One of the things that I heard from a bunch of players is that they didn’t want to let this happen again,” Wilkins said. “They had had some success in the past, and it was disappointing [for] returning players. They saw it as an opportunity to refocus and be better next year.”last_img

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