Top Wisconsin athletes of the 2015 fall semester

Nicole Bauman

There are some intangible qualities that separate a good athlete from a great one. Obviously, there is a certain level of skill necessary for any athlete to be competitive, but the combination of leadership and perseverance are the true marks of a great competitor.

For the Badger women’s basketball team, senior guard Nicole Bauman displays her talent game in and game out but, more importantly, consistently demonstrates her leadership and perseverance.

As a senior on the team, Bauman understands her role as a leader. Early in the preseason, she noted her goal to have her team be more “in sync” than last year. Consequently, she is taking it upon on herself to excite and encourage her teammates any way she can.

Not only does Bauman help her teammates improve, she never stops working on her own game. Bauman finished last season with the second-best 3-point shooting percentage in the nation, but started this season shooting below her expectations from behind the arc.

Still, she is always in the gym after practice working to improve other parts of her game, which has allowed her to still score 15 points per game and shoot over 40 percent from the field despite her slow start.

Ethan Levy

Grant Besse

The men’s hockey team has certainly endured a roller coaster of a season this fall. Amid the ups and downs, one thing has remained consistent: junior forward Grant Besse.

Coming into the year, Besse garnered attention that warranted high expectations. He has lived up to them all. Leading the team in points, Besse has netted four goals to complement his seven assists on the season.

Besse’s strong play is not limited to the offensive zone. He has proved to be a valuable asset playing in front of freshman goaltender Matt Jurusik. With only two penalties all year, Besse has made his presence known on the ice.

Arguably one of the most thrilling plays in Kohl Center history, Besse’s game-tying goal with seconds remaining in the home opener against Northern Michigan will be remembered by Badger fans for years to come.

There is a lot of hockey left to be played. Nobody can be sure exactly how the season will unfold. But, everyone can expect to see the same production out of the star junior.

Eric Shor

Drew Conner

After starting his collegiate career as a member of the Big Ten All-Freshman Team, Drew Conner proved himself as an unselfish and relentless defensive forward. Although Conner didn’t have the most impressive season of his Wisconsin career, his leadership helped develop young players and put the men’s soccer program in a position to succeed.

Conner entered Wisconsin as the top player in the state and the 30th-best player in the country. He finished the season with five points on one goal and three assists, adding to his impressive career total of 24 points in 73 games played, all of which he started. Conner succeeded on and off of the field at Wisconsin and soccer fans will miss his presence next season.

Jarek Petras

Alex Erickson

Wisconsin has a rich tradition of pumping out stars that started their career as walk-ons. This year is headlined by senior wide receiver Alex Erickson, who was voted first team All-Big Ten this week.

Erickson was the one consistent performer on an offense that often suffered from inconsistencies in personnel. He only tallied two games with fewer than 50 yards receiving and broke 100 yards receiving in another two games.

More important than his statistics was the role he played in the passing game. He served as a safety blanket for senior quarterback Joel Stave to look to when nobody else was open, or when Stave needed to get some momentum. The pair has incredible timing and chemistry that manifested itself in the fact that Erickson has nearly triple the number of receptions and yards as the second-best Badger receiver.

Erickson may not have the hands of Jared Abbrederis or the athleticism of Nick Toon, but his route running ability and his general consistency puts Alex Erickson in the ranks of Badger receiving greats and the football team’s athlete of the semester.

Andrew Tucker

Nigel Hayes

Despite a tumultuous nine-game start to the season that has seen the Badgers lose as many regular season games as they did all of last season, junior forward Nigel Hayes has shown an expanded skillset since stepping onto the court. He was the third option on offense last season behind Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, but with those two playing in the NBA, Hayes has been thrust into a primary role.

Despite a drop in field goal percentage, he’s shown a remarkable improvement in his ability to read the court. Among power-five conference forwards, Hayes ranks second in assists behind only Lebron-level recruit Ben Simmons. Redshirt freshman forward Ethan Happ speaks highly of his teammate.

“Don’t tell Nigel this, but he’s a great player,” said Happ.

Thomas Valtin-Erwin

Rose Lavelle

Heading into the season, there were high expectations for Rose Lavelle, who was ranked the No. 2 player in the country in the preseason. But despite this pressure to succeed, she was able to live up to these lofty expectations. In Lavelle’s junior year at Wisconsin she led the team in points and goals and helped guide the team to a share of the Big Ten championship.

Lavelle was honored for her season by being named Big Ten Midfielder of the year and First Team All-Big Ten. In addition, she also became the first team All-American for Wisconsin since 1991.

After her strong performance this season for the Badgers, Lavelle was called up by the U.S. Women’s National Team to participate in the four final games of the Victory Tour.

This season, Lavelle firmly established herself as one of the best women’s soccer players in the country.

Jacob Hams

Taylor Morey

This season, Morey has played in all 30 matches and has been a huge contributor to UW’s success on the court. She currently ranks third in the Big Ten with 4.51 digs per set and has reached double figures in 25 matches, including 29 vs. Kansas State.

She has led UW in digs in 24 matches this season and ranks second on the team with 81 assists. Most recently, Morey had a game-high 17 digs in a win over Iowa State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last Friday in the final home game of her UW career. She also tallied 17 digs in a first-round win over Oregon last Thursday. Morey earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors this season.

Matt Davis

Annie Pankowski

The Badger women’s hockey team (12-0-0 WCHA, 18-0-0 overall) is chock-full of international-quality athletes. However, even among her exceedingly talented teammates, 2015 WCHA Rookie of the Year sophomore forward Annie Pankowski, manages to continue to stand out in style.

The California native has led the Badgers to the best start in program history with 14 goals and 18 assists, a total of 32 collective points, which is 11 more than her nearest peer. Those numbers put her seventh in the nation in scoring, largely due to her point streak, which now stands at 21 games, the fourth-longest streak in program history. In addition to leading her team statistically, she showed up in prime time, scoring three of UW’s six goals in the Badgers’ sweep over perennial rival Minnesota (11-3-0 WCHA, 15-3-0 overall).

Pankowski scored the winning goal in dwindling seconds of overtime the first night, and followed up the performance with two more early goals against the Gophers Saturday on the way to Wisconsin’s 3-1 win, completing the sweep.

Jessi Schoville

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