The Badgers (9-2-1 Big Ten, 15-2-1 overall) head into their final regular season game against Illinois (5-6-1, 10-7-1) looking to extend their win streak to five games.
Wisconsin is a senior-laden team, filled with experience and leadership. But it has not always been pretty for the Badgers as these seniors have faced heartbreak and disappointment throughout their careers.
In 2013, the Badgers struggled down the home stretch finishing with a mediocre 10-7-2 record. Wisconsin’s final defeat came at the hands of perennial powerhouse Penn State in the Big Ten tournament and they did not qualify for the NCAA tourney.
“The past few years we would work hard but not perform to our best and kinda choke in the moment that really mattered. We wouldn’t get the results,” said redshirt senior goalkeeper Genevieve Richard.
In 2014, UW returned the same nucleus of players, led by seniors Richard, Cara Walls, Kodee Williams and Alexandra Heller.
“As a senior group we’ve been here for a long time and we’ve been through a lot of disappointing seasons,” Walls said. “We’ve experienced a lot of disappointment at this time of the season and I know that I don’t want to feel that same thing.”
This year, this group is determined to turn the page and write a storybook ending. Playing with a chip on their shoulder, the Badgers appear to be hitting their stride when it matters.
“It’s pretty unreal. I mean this is our season. I really can’t put it in any other words,” Williams said.
Yet the road will be tough. After finishing up the regular season in Champaign, Ill., the Badgers will begin the Big Ten tournament.
“We don’t want to be complacent. We don’t want to be arrogant. We know that there are a lot of good teams out there and in the Big Ten and every game is going to be a fight,” Walls said. “Obviously we are happy, but we’re not floating on clouds or anything. We know there’s a lot of work to do if we want to go far.”
After playing together for several years now, the chemistry and experience of the team seems to be paying off. The frustration of years past has motivated this team like nothing else could. Now, as the season nears its apex, the Badgers look poised to make a deep run into the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.
“It’s really cool for us to be playing this well. We’re peaking at the right time here,” said Williams.
For this talented group of seniors, ending their careers on a high note means more than just a moment of glory for the 2014 team. It is a chance for them to put Wisconsin on the national stage and establish a tradition of excellence for years to come.
“Wisconsin is not just trying to build a program, they are building a program. And we’re proving it,” Richard said.
The next few weeks are sure to provide plenty of barn-burning drama for the Badgers as they will match up with the nations’ best. The deep senior class will turn to experience and chemistry as they look to prove the program has become a powerhouse.
“I’m really proud of my senior class. I think we’ve done an amazing job and I’m glad that these are the girls I get to go out with,” Walls said.