No. 10 Wisconsin (14-4 Big Ten, 22-6 overall) kept the good times rolling last week, as it extended its winning streak to 10 matches after defeating No. 18 Illinois 3-2 Wednesday and No. 16 Ohio State 3-0 Sunday.
Head coach Kelly Sheffield was pleased with the Badgers’ ability to bounce back to win in five sets against Illinois.
“The Illinois match, and going to their place against a team that’s really gotten better, and playing at a pretty high level,” Sheffield said. “To go in there and battle back and find a way to win in five, especially after the shellacking we took in game two, [was a] good win for us.”
The Badgers also enacted revenge against the Ohio State Buckeyes, who they lost to early in the conference schedule.
“To have the opportunity to go at a team that you lost to earlier in the year and come in here and beat ‘em at home, it was a good week,” Sheffield said.
Wisconsin hasn’t lost since Oct. 17, and in that 10-game winning streak it has won 3-0 seven times. Juniors Haleigh Nelson and Lauren Carlini have been outstanding lately, as Nelson had a career-high 18 kills against Illinois and Carlini had 38 assists against OSU, moving into fifth on the UW career list with 3,933 helpers. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of holes in the Badger team right now, but Sheffield still thinks the team needs to improve.
“I always feel we can get better at serving and passing,” Sheffield said. “I don’t think that changes. I think we can cover our attackers better, I think we can be better at a ‘system’ attacking team. There is a litany of things that I think we can get better at.”
The Badgers have only two remaining matches on the season, at home against Rutgers and away against Purdue. If they win those, they are all but guaranteed to be one of the 16 hosts of the NCAA Tournament. Sheffield didn’t want to say it was guaranteed, but referenced a popular old TV show that would describe his thoughts if they weren’t seeded.
“If we don’t, you ever seen that TV show ‘Different Strokes?’" asked Sheffield. “It would be ‘What you talkin’ ‘bout Willis?’ if we’re not getting a couple home matches.”
The 64-team bracket will be decided on Sunday at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.
Everyone was getting involved for the No.1 Wisconsin Badgers (8-0-0 WCHA, 14-0-0 overall) in last weekend’s sweep over Lindenwood. Even head coach Mark Johnson got in on the action, and he was probably involved a little too much for his liking.
“I took a puck off the head at the end of the second period,” described Johnson. “I made my way to the training room, and although in our days we got stitched up. Yesterday they had the staple gun out, and put a few staples in my head. And I knew I had a hard head but it was like going back in time.”
With an early game last Friday at 2 p.m., Johnson was concerned his players wouldn’t be fully prepared for the game, but that wasn’t the case.
“I was concerned Friday at 2,” he said. “Usually when the kids are coming from class, and you have a game at 2 in the afternoon, you want to make sure they are focused, they have energy.”
Luckily for Johnson, the Badgers had no problems finding their energy last weekend, as they dispatched Lindenwood 5-1 Friday and 4-0 Sunday.
Off to a blistering 14-0 start, the only surprise for Johnson so far has been the high output on offense.
“The goal production is probably a little bit higher than we as a staff anticipated,” Johnson said. “And, you know, if you’re able to [score] 3, 4, 5 your chances are pretty good at winning a hockey game.”
He has also been pleased with the play of a few breakout players.
“A combination of kids stepping up, as I mentioned last week, you look at Rachel Jones and Erika Sowchuk,” Johnson said. “Yesterday’s game, you know, Sophia Shaver played well, Sarah Nurse got herself back on the scorer’s sheet, so it seems like when we need a goal, somebody usually steps up, and that builds confidence.”
The Badgers are back in action this weekend when they take on Dartmouth in another nonconference series.
The Wisconsin women’s basketball team (1-2) is coming off a pair of disappointing losses. They lost their first home contest to Drake, 89-70, and then lost on the road to Dayton, 87-64.
Head coach Bobbie Kelsey attributed the team’s struggles to not being to hold onto the ball.
“We took a hit last night, we played a great Dayton team,” Kelsey said. “We did not play our best game, our turnovers again were our nemesis, and we had two or three people with the majority of the turnovers, so we are going to fix that.”
The Badgers turned the ball over 26 times against Dayton. Kelsey finds it difficult to address the turnover issue due to Wisconsin’s lack of bench support.
“It’s hard because you don’t have a deep bench, so it’s hard to sit those down who, maybe need to get their attention that way. Like I said, in the Drake game it was two people with half the turnovers, so it’s not the whole team,” Kelsey said. “Traveling, rushing, picking up your dribble and not knowing what to do with it, not having a plan. It’s frustrating for me because you’re trying to figure out what will help them.”
Kelsey called out the seniors on the team, saying they need to step their game up.
“It’s seniors that are doing [the turnovers]. Not freshmen. Not sophomores. So, you know, they have to look at that and address it as, this is something we need to really concentrate on,” Kelsey said.
Although the Badgers have given up a lot of points in their two losses, Kelsey does see some positives in their play on that end.
“We did a great job on [Dayton’s] key player, [Amber] Deane, she only had eight points. We took some things away we really wanted to focus on,” Kelsey said.
Wisconsin travels to the SDSU Thanksgiving Tournament in San Diego, where they will take on Delaware and San Diego State. They will hope to get back on track by winning this tournament.
“We want to go out there and have a good showing and win our games. And we are very capable of doing that when we play the right way,” Kelsey said.
It’s officially Axe week. Saturday, the Badger football team (8-3) travels to Minneapolis to take on the Golden Gophers, with bowl eligibility on the line for Minnesota, and a lot of pride on the line for Wisconsin.
And yet, people still aren’t willing to move on from the ending to the Northwestern game. Head coach Paul Chryst seemed like he was ready to move on from it, as he wasn’t very talkative on the catch that wasn’t a catch. Chryst did have a conversation with Bill Carollo, the director of officiating for the Big Ten, about the play.
“I thought Bill Carollo has been great. He told me what the call was and where it was at, and [now we] get to move on,” Chryst said.
And moving on is what the Badgers must do, as they take on Minnesota, trying to keep the Axe for the 12th consecutive year, and Chryst is excited for the opportunity.
“We get to be a part of the longest continuous rivalry in college football,” Chryst said. “Rivalry games mean something, mean something to a lot of people. That’s what’s so cool about it.”
Last year, when these two teams squared off, the Badgers did an excellent job of limiting Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner, as he went 5-of-18 for only 95 yards.
“I feel like we were able to get lots of pressure on him,” junior defensive end Chikwe Obasih said. “Vince [Biegel] was going crazy that game, we have [Joe] Schobert coming on a lot more blitzes this year, our DBs put a blanket over their receivers. So we will try to do something similar.”
Wisconsin’s defense is unquestionably one of the best in the country, leading the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 12.5 points per game. But senior safety Michael Caputo isn’t getting complacent, as he says the defense still needs to improve.
“There’s a lot we can still improve,” Caputo said. “Ups and downs, momentum of the game, we can definitely get more turnovers, we could of used that in the last game, so we can just work to improve that this week.”
Minnesota has had some steep competition in the last few weeks, and that has hid the fact that there defense is pretty solid.
“I think they are a good group,” said senior quarterback Joel Stave. “They have some really good athletes and they are pretty well coached. They play with their safeties low and pretty aggressively so it’s going to be tough.”
The Badgers have beat Minnesota 11 years straight, and senior wide receiver Alex Erickson doesn’t want to be the group of seniors that finally lost to Minnesota.
“I remember last year the seniors said ‘it’s not going out on our term’ and I think it’s the same thing this year for us seniors,” Erickson said. “It’s our last chance to get the axe, we’ve had it every single year, so it’s one of those things we give everything we’ve got.”
With such a big game this weekend, the players also have an opportunity to grow closer as they practice on Thanksgiving, and Chryst is grateful for the opportunity.
“It’s a Thursday practice. Very thankful for that,” Chryst quipped.