With the spring season wrapping up next weekend at the Minnesota Spring Invitational, the Badgers are set to end the year on a high note, taking on Minnesota, Minnesota-Crookston and South Dakota in pool play. So far, head coach Kelly Sheffield is happy with what he has seen from the defending national runner-ups.
“I think individuals are getting better. They're certainly working hard,” Sheffield said. “I'm seeing a lot of different progress on a lot of different fronts.”
Sheffield also believes the team’s success last season has already positively impacted the program, and helped bring in top recruits.
“I think a lot of the players we're talking to are being recruited by the best programs in the country,” Sheffield said. “We live in the city and we know what kind of education this is and how beautiful this campus is. But now you've answered that other piece: Can it be done at a school like this? Can you win? Can you compete for titles? Are you a serious player?”
As the spring season closes, the Badgers look to build for success next year and beyond.
“We've got a big senior class that's coming in here, so making sure this isn't a big drop-off; that we build a program that's sustainable over time,” Sheffield said. “That's kind of where we're at right now.
The red hot Badgers (9-5 Big Ten, 27-15 overall) continued their winning ways this weekend at Penn State, putting their streak at 10 with a three-game sweep of Penn State (5-10, 14-26).
Home runs were important for the Badgers, who hit three long balls in a 6-3 victory Friday.
The teams squared up for an afternoon doubleheader Saturday to finish the series, with Wisconsin shutting down the Nittany Lions in the first game while scoring four runs of its own.
The Badgers carried their momentum into the second game and won 5-2.
Sophomore Taylor-Paige Stewart and senior pitcher Cassandra Darrah were both victorious for Wisconsin, helping the team win its fourth-straight series.
“It's tough to get Big Ten wins on the road. Penn State especially has had Wisconsin's number for a lot of years,” head coach Yvette Healy said. “It's been a while since we beat Penn State on the road, so to come out and take the series really makes it special.”
The Badgers' up-and-down season comes to a close with the Big Ten Golf Championships starting May 2, and head coach Michael Burcin sees reason for optimism despite an inconsistent year.
“It wouldn't surprise me [if we did well]. What is important for us is the consistency level. We have to get to a point where those top three guys don't have to play perfect for us to play good,” Burcin said. “That's kind of where we're at right now. If we get a little bit of help in those last two spots, I don't see why we wouldn't have a good week. But we've got to take a little bit of load off those three guys.”
Behind their four seniors, Burcin believes the Badgers are well positioned for a strong finish.
“[The seniors] certainly offered a change in culture to the program in how they practice and their attitudes and their expectation,” Burcin said. “Those guys certainly could do more, and we've talked about them trying to be All-Americans and working towards that.”
Coming off of their first finish outside the top 10 this season and coming in 11th place at the Silverado Showdown in Napa, Calif., the Badgers look to bounce back at the Big Ten Championship. Head coach Todd Oehrlein led the team to a sixth place finish there last season en route to the school’s second ever NCAA National championships appearance. He believes his team is hitting its stride just in time for another strong finish.
“There is balance to the team, and I like the fact that we don't have to just totally depend on one player or two players all of the time in order to play well. Because if those players have an off day, then our team really suffers,” Oehrlein said. “That type of balance and that type of depth is something we worked really hard to develop through our program, and it proves to be a strength of ours typically. So it does reflect itself in the results.”
With one tournament left to play in the regular season, Oehrlein also thinks the Badgers are ready to take home their second win of the season.
“You probably have six teams that, if things go well, they could play at a level that's good enough to win this championship,” Oehrlein said. “I think we're one of those teams. I feel like we have that opportunity to play that well. But you have to perform. You have to play well at the right time. You have to make some putts and you have to be solid in your approach. This golf course is going to really test your mental game.”
An end of the season drought concluded with two losses on the road for Wisconsin.
Friday the Badgers began their short road trip with a loss at No. 34 Northwestern (7-4 Big Ten, 19-9 overall).
Despite close matches throughout the day, Wisconsin was unable to gain momentum, losing 7-0.
Sophomore Alexander Kokorev and senior Petr Satral battled and won the Badgers' only match, defeating No. 33-ranked Raleigh Smith and Mihir Kumar at the No. 1 doubles position.
In the final match of the road trip, and the conclusion of the regular season, No. 11 Illinois proved to be a tough opponent, beating the Badgers with a final score of 4-1.
Freshman Elliot Sprecher claimed the Badgers' sole victory of the day, defeating Brian Page 6-3, 6-4 in a close contest.
At No. 1 singles, Satral was not able to get the win against Jared Hiltzik, losing 6-3, 6-1.
Due to Illinois’ clinching of the match, junior Michael Sinha and sophomore Frederik Strabo did not finish their individual matches.
Wisconsin finished the regular season with a 9-15 overall record, going just 1-10 in Big Ten Conference play.
The Badgers’ next contest will take place in the Big Ten Tournament, which starts April 24.
The Badgers (2-9 Big Ten, 7-12 overall) dropped their last two home matches of the regular season this weekend in their first home outdoor match of the year, ultimately falling to No. 13 Northwestern (10-1, 16-6) with a final score of 7-0.
“[Northwestern] showed us the reason why we are not top 20,” head coach Tina Samara said. “When they get opportunities they convert on them.”
UW sophomore Lauren Chypyha was unable to defeat Veronica Corning, losing 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the No. 1 singles position.
Due to an early Northwestern victory, redshirt sophomore Nova Patel and sophomore Anastasia Tripolskaya were unable to finish their No. 2 doubles match.
The last regular season match ended in a loss to No. 43 Illinois (6-5, 13-9), who beat the Badgers 5-2.
UW celebrated senior day in the final game of their home schedule, honoring Becca Bailey, who rejoined the team in January after joining the team as a walk-on player her freshman year.
Bailey, however, was unable to go out with a win, losing at the No. 6 singles position and at No. 3 doubles.
Chypyha went on to dominate her next opponent Allison Falkin, winning the match 6-0, 6-4.
“I am really happy with [Chyphya] because this is a girl that she has lost to the last two times,” Samara said. “Last time it was at regionals and it wasn’t that close.”