To say last year’s NCAA selection show left a foul taste in Kylie Schwarz’s mouth would be an understatement. The senior defender remembers how it felt on Nov. 9, 2015 when the bracket was released and Wisconsin (8-4-8) wasn’t on it.
“[It was] horrible,” Schwarz said. “There aren’t really a lot of words that you can use to describe it, at the time or even a year later. It just kinda left a little bit of a pit in my stomach. You don’t ever forget that feeling.”
It’s a feeling that the Badgers carried with them all season, and it set the tone for how they battled through each and every game.
“A lot of us know how it feels to get that rug pulled out from underneath us, and we weren’t really prepared to let that happen to us again, so we actually put ourselves in a better position than we were last year,” senior midfielder Micaela Powers said.
Schwarz and Powers can breathe easy now, as after a season that could have ended after losing to Michigan in penalty kicks last week in the Big Ten Tournament, the Badgers have earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament—and they get to play their opening game at home against a bitter rival they know very well.
Arriving in Madison Friday is Marquette (12-2-7), a team the Badgers travel down I-94 to play at least once a year. In this year’s first matchup, an exhibition game on Aug. 11, the Badgers walked away victorious with a 2-0 win on the road.
Marquette has struggled mightily on the road and against most of their higher-caliber opponents; the only two games that stand out on their schedule are a win over Michigan at home and a tie with Santa Clara.
The fact that the game is at home and against a traditional rival is a welcome luxury for the six senior Badgers, all of whom are fighting to extend their collegiate careers for at least one more game, if not longer.
Head coach Paula Wilkins thinks that last year’s disappointment will fuel the fire for redemption this postseason.
“It was really a bitter taste in their mouth when they didn’t make it last year, and that’s been a driving part for a lot of these players,” Wilkins said.
The Badgers will kick off Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at the McClimon Complex.