Coming off a weekend in which the Badgers (3-3-1) tied both Milwaukee and Kentucky, they will have their toughest test of the season in their Big Ten opener Friday against No. 4 Penn State (5-1-1). Wisconsin will continue a tough opening Big Ten schedule as they play No. 20 Ohio State (5-1-1) later in the weekend. The Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes are on a different level of competition than the teams Wisconsin has seen previously, having jumped out to a strong start in their 2015 campaigns.
UW’s defense will have a huge challenge containing Penn State’s team captain Mallory Weber. Weber leads the team in both goals and assists and already has one game- winning goal. Along with getting the opportunities to score with 15 shots this season, Weber puts nearly half her shots on goal.
Wisconsin’s offense won’t have it any easier against redshirt senior goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom. She has only given up four goals on the season and in her seven starts has three shutouts, and has an impressive 83 percent save percentage. If there is one player on the Badgers that can break through the impressive Nittany Lion defense, it is junior Rose Lavelle, who leads the team with four goals and two assists, and has an impressive 32 shots and puts half of those shots on goal. Lavelle, who is one of the top players in the nation, will be hard-pressed to find the net against Penn State, which has permitted just six goals this season.
Wisconsin’s defense has been solid this year as well, giving up only nine goals on the season. In the net, redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem has saved nearly 75 percent of the shots on goal. Clem and the defense will be put to the test against a Penn State offense that has scored 13 goals.
The Badgers defense will have another tough test Sunday against offensive powerhouse Ohio State. The Buckeyes have scored 14 goals this season by way of a very balanced attack, as nine players have scored goals this season. The Buckeyes have over 50 percent of their shots on goal and average two goals per game.
The Buckeyes not only have a strong offense, but also have a strong defense, giving up just six goals on the season.
The Badgers will take on Penn State Thursday at 6 p.m. in University Park, Pa. and Ohio State at 11 a.m. in Columbus, Ohio.