Capturing dominance: the top eight moments from a sensational year of Badger athletics

The Badgers' upset win over LSU is just one of the many highlights from a historic year in Wisconsin athletics. 

Image By: Jessi Schoville

Men's Basketball: Hayes delivers dagger into Nova's repeat bid

With 20.3 seconds remaining and the No. 8 seed Badgers tied 62-62 against the No. 1 overall seed Villanova Wildcats, Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard called a timeout, looking to draw up the most important set piece of the Badgers’ season.

The playcall was designed for senior forward Nigel Hayes, who throughout his four years at Wisconsin not only received constant accolades, but also frequent criticism. Hayes caught the ball on the right wing and immediately attacked the basket. He would say after the game that he was channeling Michael Jordan with his drive, as the Badger forward used a fake spin move to get under the rim before laying the ball in with his left hand.

Less than 12 seconds later, Hayes’ basket would prove to be the difference. After a steal and a free throw by senior forward Vitto Brown, the Badgers walked away from a cold and snowy week in Buffalo, N.Y., with two victories and a battle against Florida in the Sweet 16 looming on the horizon. Hayes’ layup helped guide UW to its fourth-consecutive Sweet Sixteen, the longest active streak in the nation. In knocking off defending-champion Villanova, Wisconsin had done what many had considered impossible.

-Ben Pickman

Women's Basketball: Van Leeuwen's basket gives Badgers back-to-back wins

With 14 seconds left in the Badgers’ game against Illinois and just ten on the shot, UW was clinging to a 57-55 lead. What should have been a smooth win was beginning to look like a potential catastrophe.

Then Kendra Van Leeuwen stepped in.

The freshman point guard, who started every game for Wisconsin, got the ball off an inbounds pass and made her move. She got the free throw line with just a sliver of time left and put up a beauty of a floater. The ball hung in the air for only a handful of seconds, but it felt like forever before the ball finally dropped soundly into the bottom of the net.

The Kohl Center erupted as the Badgers took a four-point lead with only four seconds left, securing a rare win. In their home finale, Van Leeuwen’s shot gave the Badgers back-to-back wins for the first time all season.

It was a poetic ending to the season for Van Leeuwen, who had also buried a game-clinching shot in the first home game of the season against Butler.

-Isaiah De los Santos

Men's Soccer: Mueller's penalty kick against Indiana sends Badgers to Big Ten Championship

In a season of marked improvement for the men’s soccer team, no moment was as significant or memorable as junior forward Christopher Mueller slotting home a penalty kick against Indiana.

The goal ended the shootout between the conference foes and sent the Badgers to the Big Ten Championship to face Maryland. Beyond those short-term impacts, however, Mueller’s penalty was a microcosm of Wisconsin’s recent progress, as the team more than doubled its win total from the season before.

After a poor five-win campaign in 2015, the Badgers were far more formidable this season, vastly tightening up their defense and making a serious push for the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin’s stark development could be seen in the pure, unbridled joy of Mueller’s celebration, as the Badgers’ talisman removed his shirt and ran towards the corner flag with his arms open. Mueller endured two dreadful seasons as a Badger, but their win against Indiana was a statement of intent from John Trask’s team: Wisconsin soccer is no longer a joke. Ultimately, then, Mueller’s goal showed the potential that this team has, and raised the bar from simply competing with the best to beating them outright.

-Jake Nisse

Women's Soccer: Lavelle's goal against Golden Eagles punctuates historic career

In early November, Rose Lavelle kept the Badgers in the NCAA Tournament for one more game with a go-ahead goal to secure the upset win against I-94 rival Marquette in the first round.

Lavelle’s goal was a highlight that, a week earlier, had hardly even seemed like a possibility. After a Big Ten Tournament that ended in a loss in penalty kicks to Michigan, the team was worried that they wouldn’t even be selected for postseason play.

For a team that dominated statistically, yet struggled mightily getting the ball in the net all season, Lavelle’s bomb off the edge of the 18-yard box was reason for the whole squad to celebrate.

With a home crowd cheering them on and an in-state rival upping the intensity of the game, Lavelle and the Badgers delivered one for the history books.

-Kelly Ward

Men's Hockey: Hughes nets winner in New York

In the Badgers’ trip to Madison Square Garden, UW grabbed a two-goal lead against Ohio State and held that advantage with just two minutes left. Still, despite playing a complete 58 minutes of hockey, the Badgers ultimately squandered that two-goal lead, as the Buckeyes scored twice, tying the game with 16 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.

Nonetheless, UW found a way to regain the momentum immediately at the start of overtime. The Badgers came out flying, and less than three minutes into the extra frame, junior forward Cameron Hughes collected a loose puck in front of the Ohio State net and buried it, giving Wisconsin a huge victory.

The whole season, the race for the Big Ten title was tight, as each team was separated by just a few points. Ohio State was one of the teams among the top, and Hughes’ goal not only sealed a victory for Wisconsin, but also boosted UW in the conference standings.

And not only did this game end up being a big win against a Buckeye team that would later make the NCAA Tournament, but Hughes’ overtime goal under the lights of Madison Square Garden is not something that these Badgers will likely ever forget.

-Ethan Levy

Women's Hockey: Channel sends UW into National Championship

Wisconsin swept into this year’s national semifinal against Boston College riding a 21-game unbeaten streak and a No. 1 ranking, looking to avenge three straight losses to Minnesota in this same game. The Badgers were heavily favored, but for 59 minutes they had been unable to get any of their 34 shots past Eagles’ goaltender Katie Burt.

On a “gut instinct,” head coach Mark Johnson put freshman center Abby Roque out for an offensive zone faceoff. She won the draw, and the puck found its way to senior defenseman Mellissa Channell. Channell lined up a slapshot from the blue line that squeezed through a mass of bodies and found the back of the net with 17 seconds remaining, effectively ending the game.

The Badgers ultimately didn’t capture the NCAA title, falling to Clarkson two days later, but in that moment the emotional toll of the past three years had been wiped away. They knew they had another game to play, but their celebration showed that this was more than just a semifinal victory; it was an expulsion of the semifinal ghosts that had haunted the Badgers the previous three years.

-Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Volleyball: Seniors reach third Elite Eight

There were many spectacular moments for a historically good UW volleyball team, but the moment that tops them all is the Badgers’ comeback victory over Ohio State to advance to the Elite Eight.

Wisconsin looked like they would dominate the match early, winning the first set by 10 points to take a 1-0 lead. But, that lead would not hold up, as Ohio State’s familiarity with the Badgers helped them take the second set, and narrowly take the third set in extra points. It looked likely that the season would come to a disappointing end in the Sweet 16 for a second-straight year, but the Badgers’ experience allowed them to turn it around.

Senior setter Lauren Carlini was instrumental in the comeback, with 10 assists and two blocks in the fourth set to send it to a win-or-go-home fifth set. In that final set, it was another senior stepping up, Haleigh Nelson, who notched five kills.

In a special moment, the two senior leaders, Carlini and Nelson, combined for the final point of the match to complete the comeback and send the team to the Elite Eight. It was the senior class’ third Elite Eight in four years, completing the best four-year run in program history.

-Jacob Hams

Football: Badgers leap past LSU at Lambeau Field to set stage for stellar season

Before the season began, the Badgers’ daunting gauntlet of a schedule looked as if it might be too much for UW to handle. First LSU, then Michigan State and Michigan on the road, topped off by Ohio State and Nebraska in Camp Randall under the lights. Going 2-3 in those games seemed like a great scenario for a UW team with an untested secondary and an unproven quarterback.

First, though, Wisconsin had to head to historic Lambeau Field to take on the No. 5 LSU Tigers in the first week of the season. With a grand setting, a formidable opponent and College Gameday in attendance, the game was shaping up to be one of the biggest regular season tilts in school history.

By the half, the Badgers had put themselves in a position to win the game. They held LSU scoreless and held highly touted running back Leonard Fournette to a measly 35 yards. While they only had six points themselves, the defense looked like it might be good enough to make up for it.

But the Tigers didn’t go down without a fight, and Fournette came alive, giving them a 14-13 late lead. The fourth was much like the rest of the game: a back-and-forth defensive affair, but Wisconsin eventually broke through and kicked a field goal with 3:47 left. LSU was swiftly driving down the field to set up a winning field goal, but just in the nick of time, D’Cota Dixon snagged an interception that sealed the victory for UW.

While the rest of the schedule didn’t get any easier, after beating one of the best preseason teams in the nation, the Badgers proved they were a force to be reckoned with. Sure enough, Wisconsin finished 3-2 in that brutal stretch en route to a Big Ten Championship appearance and a win in the Cotton Bowl, and it all began in the spotlight up in Lambeau.

-Andrew Tucker

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