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Saturday, December 09, 2023

Women's Soccer: Badgers prepare for next round of NCAA tournament

The Badgers may be red hot, but there is no doubt the team is looking forward to leaving the brutal cold as they head to Florida for their second game in the NCAA tournament.

No. 9 Wisconsin (19-2-2) will take on No. 22 UCF (17-4-0) Friday in Tallahassee. This second round matchup will feature two of the top defenses in the nation.

Behind goalkeeper Connie Organ, the Knights have allowed just 10 goals all season. Organ, who was named the American Athletic Conference Goalkeeper of the Year, boasts a 0.48 goals- against average and has compiled 12 shutouts.

Wisconsin’s goalkeeper, redshirt senior Genevieve Richard, was also honored as the best goalie in her conference. She earned a 0.31 goals- against average to go along with her school record-breaking 16 shutouts. Richard and the rest of the smothering Badger defense has allowed just seven goals all season. In addition, the defense has earned a shutout in seven straight games. The last time the opposing team found the back of the net was Oct. 18, when Minnesota scored just once.

UCF ranks seventh in the nation in goals against average, while Wisconsin’s mark ranks third. The Badgers also rank second in save percentage and in shutout percentage. UCF ranks 39th and 10th in both categories, respectively.

UCF won the regular season American Athletic Conference crown, posting an 8-1 conference record. This was no easy feat as the Knights had to defeat No. 21 South Florida, a squad that made the NCAA tournament but fell to Illinois State in the first round.

Overall, UCF is a strong defensive team that played well enough to win a conference title. Yet the Knights have not yet proven they can beat an elite team. The same could be argued for a Wisconsin team that lost to No. 6 Penn State, but the Badgers did defeat Rutgers, the other Big Ten team that made the tournament and won in the first round. The victory over undefeated DePaul in the first round also proved Wisconsin’s ability to compete with the nation’s best.

For Wisconsin to win this game, senior forwards Cara Walls and Kodee Williams must capitalize on scoring chances. Junior midfielder Kinley McNicoll and sophomore midfielder Rose Lavelle will create opportunities for the forwards and they will have to find twine. Against a stout defense, the Badgers may only get three or four chances and because of this, the seniors must step up on the big stage.

Similarly, Wisconsin will only allow UCF a few quality shots. Look for forward Tatiana Coleman and midfielder Ashley Spivey, who have scored a combined 21 goals, to lead the Knights’ offensive attack. If Richard can deny the UCF goal scorers two or three times like she did against DePaul last Friday, the Badgers have an excellent shot at winning the game.

The match figures to be an intense low-scoring battle between two fantastic defensive squads. The contest will kick off in Tallahassee at 1:30 p.m Friday.

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