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Wednesday, December 08, 2021
Wisconsin heads west with tough path on the horizon

Michele Dalton: Sophomore goalkeeper Michele Dalton had 15 saves in her first four starts in 2009, including seven during her first game.

Wisconsin heads west with tough path on the horizon

The Wisconsin women's soccer team (4-2-1) is headed west for the weekend where they will play in the Nike Invitational in Stanford, California.

Coming off a narrow win versus North Dakota State and an epic comeback victory against DePaul, the Badgers have their first winning streak of the season going into the tournament. Maintaining that streak will not be an easy task for Wisconsin as they face two ranked opponents in No. 12 Santa Clara on Friday and No. 3 Stanford on Sunday.

Although the Badgers have a respectable record against these two teams (1-1 against Santa Clara and 2-1 against Stanford), their most recent meetings have not been pretty.

In 1994, Wisconsin was defeated 4-0 by Santa Clara, and was beaten 2-0 by Stanford back in 2000.

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Asked what the team can do to prepare for the upcoming tournament, head coach Paula Wilkins said the team must work on its defense and its passing efficiency. 

The Santa Clara Broncos (3-2-0) gained national attention after they took down No. 5 Notre Dame, who beat the Badgers, 3-0, and No. 7 Purdue.

The Broncos have multiple scoring threats, as seven different players have scored their eight goals this season.

The Badgers have only allowed four goals this season. It will be up to Wisconsin goalkeepers Michele Dalton and Lauren Gunderson, who have a combined four shutouts between them, to fend off the imposing Santa Clara offense.

If the Wisconsin defense is able to hold the Broncos to one goal or fewer and the offense shows up like they did against DePaul, this is definitely a winnable game for the Badgers.

Stanford (7-0-0) presents an even more daunting task for Wisconsin. The Cardinal have scored an astounding 23 goals this season, with eight coming from senior captain Kelley O'Hara.

O'Hara will be a handful for the Badger defense, being the nation's top projected player for the third consecutive year. She has three assists in addition to her eight goals.

Wisconsin's defense, however, is its strong point. It did not give up a goal until the 328th minute of the season, when then-No. 3 Notre Dame put one in the back of the net.

The Stanford defense is superb as well, with goalkeeper Kira Maker being tied for fifth on the all-time shutout list with sixteen in her career. Freshman Alev Kelter has been the main scoring threat for Wisconsin, as she is the only member of the squad with more than one goal. If the Badgers have any hope of winning this match they will need Kelter and the rest of the team to be on top of their games.

Leaving California with two losses is a strong possibility, but Wisconsin does have the opportunity to gain national recognition if it can steal a win from either of these two ranked opponents.

After the Nike Invitational, the Badgers will open Big Ten play against Purdue at the McClimon Soccer Complex on Sept. 25th.

— contributed to this report.


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