Resilience paid dividends for the Wisconsin women’s soccer team (5-2-4 Big Ten, 8-4-7 overall). On a cold fan appreciation night, the Badgers beat Rutgers (4-2-5, 9-3-6) 2-1 and secured the No. 5 seed heading into the Big 10 Tournament.
The Badgers extended their unbeaten streak to seven matches with this victory at the McClimon Complex, remaining unbeaten against Rutgers and snapping the Scarlet Knights’ six-game winning streak.
Corner kicks were frequent in the game; the Badgers took 12 corners, but failed to capitalize early in the game when they advanced into Rutgers’ attacking third. Both teams utilized the slippery conditions of the ball and field, as slide tackles prevented attacking runs from developing down the field.
Rutgers’ second shot of the first half didn’t come until in the 40th minute, but that shot was a critical one. Senior forward Erica Murphy slotted a ball past redshirt junior Badger keeper Caitlyn Clem on an assist from fellow senior forward Madison Tiernan. It was the only goal from either side in the first half, and ended Clem’s
Rain continued to fall and, for most of the game, the only bright spot appeared to be the free pizza for fans in attendance. Then, senior Badger midfielder Rose Lavelle capitalized on sloppy Rutgers defense on an assist from redshirt senior defender Morgan Taylor in the 74th minute.
“We were creating some stuff in the first half but we weren’t executing well enough in the final third,” UW head coach Paula Wilkins said. “We were down, we pushed Rose a little bit higher and she did what really good players do and took over the game.”
And she did just that. Just seven minutes after leveling the game 1-1, Lavelle blasted a shot from outside the 18. Freshman Payton Wesley passed the ball to Lavelle, who sneaked the ball in with her left foot to put the Badgers up for good.
With Lavelle’s career finally drawing to a close, it would be easy to bathe in the moment and reflect on her unparalleled success as a Badger. But, she’s far too focused on the season at hand to sit back and relax.
“My last home game is really special,” Lavelle said. “We are fighting every game and taking it one game at a time … It’s been a fun season, but we’re not done yet.”
A strong performance from Lavelle is a positive sign for this unit, as they have struggled to score over their previous matches. Heading into the Big Ten Tournament this weekend, Wilkins is confident in her team.
“This team has changed themselves since Indiana, and I like them going in this direction for sure,” she said.
The Badgers will head to play the No. 4 seed Michigan on Oct. 30 away from the friendly confines of Madison. The game will kick off at 4 p.m.