Coming off of a thrilling 3-2 comeback win against Michigan Thursday night, the Badgers squared off against Michigan State on a crisp Sunday afternoon, prevailing 1-0 in what was often a gridlocked match.
Their win today cemented what has been a climb to the top of the Big Ten standings for Wisconsin, who now leads the conference with seven wins and 22 points.
Going into halftime, the game was scoreless, despite the Badgers (7-1-1 Big Ten, 10-4-3 overall) clocking in eight shots to the Spartans’ (3-3-2, 7-4-4) one shot.
“I thought we had possession on them, especially in the final third, but I told them that doesn’t win soccer games,” UW head coach Paula Wilkins said. “Michigan State does a great job … it was going to [take] something special to break them down.”
During halftime, Wilkins made the decision to tell the team that powerhouse Penn State (6-2-1, 11-3-2) had lost to Rutgers, meaning if the Badgers went on to beat the Spartans, they would take sole possession of first place in the current standings.
“I think I spent more time deciding that than I actually did on the tactical decisions we were going to do,” Wilkins said. “I thought that this team was a mature enough team … their faces lit up, and I think they saw it as something to go get rather than something to lose.”
A physical and gritty Spartan defense thwarted the majority of the Badgers’ offensive attempts. The intensity between the opposing sides was high, with 10 fouls called on Michigan State and eight fouls called on Wisconsin.
“It makes the game more exciting to be a part of,” junior midfielder Rose Lavelle said. “I feel like there’s more at stake.”
A series of five corner kicks in the second half and multiple long throw-ins for Wisconsin pressed the Michigan State keeper Gabrielle Gauruder and defenders, with one shot going just over the crossbar. The Badgers had a total of 19 shots over the course of the game.
Finally, in the 83rd minute, senior midfielder McKenna Meuer flicked the ball off of a long-throw in from Micaela Powers into the box. Lavelle, unmarked, headed the ball into the back of the net.
Lavelle’s goal ended Michigan State’s impressive 239-minute shutout streak.
The Spartans were unable to retaliate in the remaining time. A Spartan forward going for the ball even barreled into sophomore goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem in the final minutes in a last effort to score, resulting in an ugly collision for both players. However, Clem stayed in and went on to finish out the match.
Before the match, the team also celebrated the accomplishments of the seniors in a Senior Day tribute. Meuer, along with defenders Brianna Stelzer and Molly Laufenberg, as well as midfielder Kinley McNicoll and forwards Marisa Kresge and Nikki Greenhalgh, will be graduating.
The Badgers will take on the Maryland Terrapins on the road next Saturday, Oct. 24 at 6 p.m.
UWBadgers.com contributed to this report.