From tournament runs to top five upsets, Wisconsin's best sports moments of the year

On Feb. 15, Frank Kaminsky night, UW pulled off its biggest win of the the season, stunning then-No. 6 Purdue 57-53.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Football

Within the span of just over three minutes versus Michigan, touchdowns from wide receivers A.J. Taylor and Kendric Pryor awoke a previously dormant Wisconsin offense and handed the team a 21-10 lead at the end of the third quarter. The scores weren’t just important plays en route to an 11th-straight Badger victory; they were signs of a matured, evolved team.

In its first major test of the season, Wisconsin fought back to beat the Wolverines for the first team since 2010 and prove that it was more than almost-men. The Badgers beat up on one of their biggest rivals, and in turn showed the country they deserved to be taken seriously. And yet, the win didn’t feel surprising or undeserved. Rather, it felt like a natural forward step for a team that barely missed out on the College Football Playoff.

-Jake Nisse

Jessi Schoville | The Daily Cardinal

Wisconsin beat then-No. 19 Michigan 24-10 in its home finale.


Men's Basketball

All season long, the ball had fallen the wrong way for the Wisconsin men’s basketball team. The Badgers’ shots had rimmed out. Their opponents’ shots had rimmed in. It had gone wrong almost all year. But when UW took the court after raising Frank Kaminsky’s number to the rafters, there was a different aura in the Kohl Center.

As the final 60 seconds ticked off the clock, No. 6 Purdue clanged consecutive threes off the rim. Ethan Happ buried a pair of free throws. The seconds kept winding. And as the buzzer sounded, with countless former Badgers in attendance, the scoreboard showed 57-53, a major Wisconsin win in a sea of losses. Joined by Josh Gasser, Ben Brust, Nigel Hayes and several others, Badger fans stormed the court and danced alongside Happ and Brad Davison. The season had long since been lost, but not a soul cared that night. The men’s basketball team had given Kaminsky one last hurrah.

-Thomas Valtin-Erwin


Women's Basketball

It’s always tough to say goodbye to seniors, especially those who have been in the program for four years.

Unfortunately, the Wisconsin women’s basketball team will have to continue on without the services of star senior forward Cayla McMorris, who will be graduating from UW this May and is seeking to further her basketball career professionally.

McMorris was a rock for the Badgers this winter, consistently displaying her versatile scoring ability, defensive intensity and all-out effort. A tremendous leader for UW, the two-time All-Big 10 honorable mention will go down as one of the best to have ever worn a Badger uniform.

No moment could have capped-off a stellar senior season and career better than when McMorris barreled her way to the rim for a layup early in the first quarter of the team’s February 3 matchup against Ohio State, making her the 22nd Wisconsin Badger to surpass the 1,000-career point mark.

-Michael Parsky


Men's Hockey

With 27 seconds remaining in Wisconsin’s final matchup against Notre Dame, JD Greenway had one hand gripping the cage of an Irish player’s helmet and the other pointing upward toward the United Center scoreboard. While Greenway earned a 10-minute penalty and an ejection for fighting, he put the finishing emotional touches on an improbable and memorable 5-0 win over then-No. 1 Notre Dame.

Going into the matchup at the Chicago Blackhawks’ arena, Notre Dame was 13-0 in Big Ten play. Wisconsin was 5-8-2. But behind three goals from freshmen, a short-handed goal and a 40-save performance by Jack Berry, UW dominated an Irish team that ended up making it to the NCAA National Championship Game.

Just prior to puck drop, Jim Johannson, who was a UW-Madison alum, the 2018 U.S. Men's Olympic Team GM and a very dear friend of UW head coach Tony Granato, suddenly passed away. It was a very emotional afternoon for the entire UW program, especially Granato, and the players attributed a lot of their success to playing for their coach.

“We played hard.” Berry said after the victory. “We did it for him tonight.”

-Ethan Levy

Cameron Lane-Flehinger | The Daily Cardinal

Wisconsin beat Notre Dame 5-0 behind an incredible, coast-to-coast opening goal from freshman Wyatt Kalynuk.


Women's Hockey

This year’s UW women’s hockey team found its way to the Frozen Four again, and there were plenty of big moments throughout the year. But the biggest for the Badgers came in the first round of the NCAA playoffs.

No. 2 Wisconsin matched up against the No. 5 Minnesota Golden Gophers for the sixth time on the year, with a shot at the Frozen Four on the line. The Badgers were hungry after Minnesota beat them a week earlier to win the WCHA title, and UW looked to prove that it was the best team from the conference. LaBahn Arena was packed full and the stadium was rocking from puck drop until the final horn sounded. Abby Roque was the star of the game, netting two goals and leading the pace out on the ice. When it was all said and done, Wisconsin walked out victorious with a 4-0 victory and a trip to the Frozen Four, while Minnesota had to pack up and go home.

-Nathan Denzin


Volleyball

Sullied by a string of late-match lapses, the 2017 Wisconsin volleyball team had drifted into a serious funk as it entered a marquee meeting with then-No. 4 Nebraska last October at the Field House.

Trailing for much of the fourth set and in danger of dropping a second consecutive frame, the Badgers looked as if they might relinquish their once commanding 2-0 lead, squandering yet another opportunity to vanquish a conference foe.

But, with the score knotted at 23 apiece — and the Cornhuskers just two points from forcing a decisive fifth set — Wisconsin managed to avert a potential crisis on its home floor. Following a pair of putaways from Nebraska’s Jazz Sweet, Dana Rettke buried a vicious kill to send the contest to match point, setting the stage for redshirt sophomore blocker Madison Duello, who delivered the knockout punch on the next sequence, snapping UW’s three-match skid en route to its biggest victory of the season.

-David Gwidt

Brandon Moe | The Daily Cardinal

Freshman Dana Rettke was an AVCA Division 1 First-Team All-American.



Men's Soccer

Sullied by a string of late-match lapses, the 2017 Wisconsin volleyball team had drifted into a serious funk as it entered a marquee meeting with then-No. 4 Nebraska last October at the Field House.

Trailing for much of the fourth set and in danger of dropping a second consecutive frame, the Badgers looked as if they might relinquish their once commanding 2-0 lead, squandering yet another opportunity to vanquish a conference foe.

After a thrilling Big Ten Tournament run that featured wins over Maryland and Michigan, all that stood in the way of the Badgers’ first Big Ten Tournament title were the powerhouse Indiana Hoosiers.

The two top offenses in the Big Ten surprisingly couldn’t find a goal, forcing the game into a penalty shootout.

The Badgers’ seniors stepped up to prevail 4-2. Senior goalkeeper Philipp Schilling scored one and saved one, while seniors Isaac Schlenker, Tom Barlow and Mark Segbers also made their penalties.

As Segbers turned around after his clinching penalty hit the back of the net, he tapped at his arm showing the ice in his veins as the rest of the Badgers rushed him to celebrate their Big Ten title.

Not a bad way to finish your final year as a champion.

-Bremen Keasey


Softball

The Wisconsin softball team has had a season full of peaks and valleys. Even at low points, however, UW has shown promise as far as the direction of the program and given Wisconsin fans a reason to be excited for the future. Some of the team’s most important pieces — such as Kaitlyn Menz, Haley Hestekin and Taylor Johnson — are underclassmen. This breathes hope into a program that has played in just one NCAA tournament in the last decade.

No game encapsulates this team’s potential success more than its early-season comeback victory against No. 6 Auburn in the Mary Nutter Classic. Kaitlyn Menz pitched superbly, striking out eight, and the Badgers rallied from a deficit in the sixth to upset the Tigers 3-2. Wisconsin had only three hits to Auburn’s six, but committed no errors and made the most of every base runner. This was Auburn’s second loss of the year. A comeback victory over a powerhouse like Auburn on the national stage showed that the 2018 Badgers could beat anyone on any given night — something Badger fans would love to see even more of in coming seasons. With a skipper like head coach Yvette Healy and a roster full of young talent, there is no reason these statement wins can’t become commonplace for Wisconsin softball.

-Andrew Guckes

Cameron Lane-Flehinger | The Daily Cardinal

Kaitlyn Menz has been a standout all season for UW.



Men's Tennis

Leading up to a St. Patrick’s Day match in Nebraska, the Wisconsin men’s tennis team had seen its luck disappear time after time when away from the friendly confines of the Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison. While owning a perfect 8-0 record when playing at home, the team had yet to emerge victorious on the road and had a 0-6 record to show for it.

The match against the Cornhuskers was a grueling back-and-forth contest that stood at a score of 3-3, to be decided by the lone unfinished match of the day. All eyes turned to Wisconsin junior, Dublin, Ireland native Osgar O’Hoisin who was locked in a tight battle on court five.

In the end, O’Hoisin was able to carry the luck of the Irish with him all the way to Lincoln, as UW ended its winless road drought. After splitting the first two sets, O’Hoisin delivered a clutch 6-3 victory in the third to win by a score of 7-6, 3-6, 6-3. The team carried that momentum into next weekend when it defeated two ranked teams (Iowa and Penn State) which earned it a spot in the national rankings for the first time all season.

-Alex Young


Women's Tennis

The Wisconsin women’s tennis team raced out to a 4-0 record to open its 2018 schedule. The Badgers continued their hot start with a doubleheader sweep over Bradley and Green Bay, winning both matches 7-0.

The Badgers’ hot start coupled with new, young talent in Lexi Keberle fueled fans’ excitement. Fans packed Nielsen Tennis Stadium and watched on as UW shutout Green Bay on the way to its best start in program history.

Doubles duo Melissa Pick and Lexi Keberle followed MaryAnn Rompf and Kelsey Grambeau’s lead and took home the doubles point for the Badgers.

Keberle, Rompf, Michelle Linden and Christina Zordani all recorded impressive singles wins in straight sets, while Pick won in a shutout, 6-0, 6-0.

Head coach Kelcy McKenna was thrilled with the Badgers performance, particularly with their energy and effort. With the win, UW went into the ITA National Indoors tournament with a ton of confidence and momentum.

-Jared Schwartz


Swimming and Diving

Sophomore swimmer Beata Nelson turned up the heat and put the swimming world on notice at the Big Ten Championships in February when she broke the Big Ten record in the 100 backstroke — nearly breaking the American record in the process as well. Nelson’s blazing-fast time of 49.78 seconds came as the leadoff leg of Wisconsin’s 400 medley relay on February 15, making Nelson the second fastest woman of all time in the event and only the fourth ever to swim a time sub-50 seconds. Nelson repeated her stellar performance at the NCAA Championships, swimming a nearly-as-fast 49.92 to claim second place overall in the individual 100 backstroke event, edging out Olympic silver medalist Kathleen Baker. Since Nelson is only a sophomore, it is safe to say that Wisconsin fans can expect even more record shattering swims from her over the next two seasons.

-Kelly Ward

Brandon Moe | The Daily Cardinal

Beata Nelson had a record-setting performance in the Big Ten Championships.


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