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Friday, June 09, 2023

Women's soccer: Badgers prepare for strong Illinois offense

After a tough weekend with two conference games versus Penn State and Ohio State, the No. 20 Wisconsin women’s soccer team (3-1-1 Big Ten, 8-2-2 overall) is looking ahead to its next challenge, another Big Ten matchup against Illinois (1-3-1, 6-5-2) in Champaign Saturday.

The Badgers, who are currently tied for third place in the Big Ten, have had a five-day break from gameplay since their last game Sunday, which resulted in a 1-0 victory over Ohio State in overtime. They have spent the time preparing both mentally and physically for this Saturday’s matchup.

“We’re looking at what Illinois does well and what we need to do better at,” junior forward Cara Walls said. “So that’s what we’ve been doing at practice this whole week—attacking and being more dynamic.”

The team certainly has its eyes on the Fighting Illini’s offensive side, with UI senior midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo and redshirt junior forward Jannelle Flaws leading the team in goals scored this season with 13. According to Wisconsin head coach Paula Wilkins, it’s crucial that her team keeps the Illinois offense in check.

“They have a very dynamic player up front and one of the leading scorers in the Big Ten, so I think being focused and doing a good job defensively against them,” she said. “But for the most part is it’s going to be our ball movement and ability to get numbers in the box.”

Freshman defender Kylie Schwarz added that getting points on the scoreboard will be tough for both teams.

“I think the biggest challenge is going to be scoring goals. I think that in the Big Ten in general that’s a huge problem that every team has, just because every team is so solid,” she said.

Wilkins added that the biggest thing to focus on for the team is staying mentally aware and being consistent in its play.

“We’ve played two quality teams this last weekend here at home and consistency is the biggest thing,” Wilkins said. “We have to eliminate mental lapses for us to be successful.”

Especially in the later part of the season, the team knows that every point matters, and it shouldn’t take any teams for granted, especially after suffering a 2-1 loss to Penn State last Friday.

“There are no easy games. We obviously knew Penn State was going to be hard but then I think we took Ohio State for granted and that kind of bit us in the butt, especially in the first half,” said freshman forward Rose Lavelle. “So we need to come out strong every game because every game is going to matter.”

Ultimately, UW is hoping to take what it learned in last weekend’s matchups into this next conference game and extend its undefeated road record.

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“I think we’re going to be able to use all the knowledge we’ve gained from Penn State and Ohio State, the really good teams in the Big Ten, and just go in there and hopefully get a win,” Schwarz said.

According to Lavelle, Wisconsin is just looking to continue to show its strength and power as a contender for a Big Ten championship.

“I’m looking forward to going out and proving something again, as a team,” Lavelle said. “I think we’re really showing what we have and that we’re a team to be reckoned with.”

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