With the coming of each new school year, a new season brings a different schedule, fresh faces and new gameplans. Yet, amid the dawn of a new, fresh start, old rivalries still exist for the Badgers Men’s Soccer team.
On Friday, Wisconsin (1-0-2) begins its conference play in Ann Arbor against the Michigan Wolverines (2-0-1). The UW defense will likely be kept busy, as Michigan leads the Big 10 in shots this year with 66—16.5 per game. Of course, this is recorded from a relatively small sample size, but it illuminates that Michigan has already asserted their dominance offensively, and has consistently forced balls toward the net. Look for redshirt sophomore defender Elan Koenig and sophomore defensive midfielder Noah Leibold to play a big role in keeping Michigan away from their net come Friday.
Fortunately for the Badgers, their defense has already proven capable. UW only allowed one goal against Grand Canyon in a 3-1 victory in at the McClimon complex in Madison. Michigan, however, is a more formidable opponent, and has the opportunity to put more pressure on Wisconsin’s back four, mostly through the boot of sophomore Jack Hallahan. Hallahan leads the Big Ten in points (one and a half per game), assists (.5 per game) and shots (four and a half per game). He is an invaluable piece of Michigan’s puzzle, which is starting to come together, as they received votes for a top-25 ranking.
From an offensive standpoint, Wisconsin’s key playmaker against Grand Canyon was senior forward Mark Segbers. His playmaking on and off the ball created key opportunities for the Badgers last weekend. The Wolverines will have to contain Segbers, as his brain and creativity allow him to set up his teammates for grade-A opportunities.
Michigan has had its fair share of success in recent years. The Wolverines are amid their best start since 2008, boasting a 3-0-1 record. Resulting from a five-game home stand, they have the chance to iron out any early season rust in a familiar setting. At first, this may seem like a daunting task for the Badgers, but this Wisconsin team is led by experienced seniors, and they are prepared to face their conference foe with confidence.
After the Wolverines, the Badgers will face another tough opponent, the Northwestern Wildcats, next Wednesday. Yet, head coach John Trask is taking the 2017 season one game at a time. “We start the Big Ten this coming Friday at Michigan, and then a very tough game against Northwestern back here on the Big Ten Network the following Wednesday,” Trask said. “The out-of-conference stuff hopefully prepares you for the Big Ten, and we will have a whale of a test against those guys in Ann Arbor.” As their coach said, the Badgers can only look at the season one game at a time. With a veteran led squad, however, UW will understand that message, and will ready themselves for a potential big early conference win.