The Badgers women’s soccer team finds itself trading below-freezing temperatures at home for a little warmth and sunshine as it will be roadtripping down to pleasant Columbia, S.C., to take on the No. 1-seed South Carolina Gamecocks in the second round of the NCAA women’s soccer tournament after handily beating the Toledo Rockets Friday night, 5-0.
The game could be viewed as a story of two halves as the Badgers peppered Rockets goalkeeper Madison Perrin with 13 shots and five on goal compared to the Rockets’ two total shots and one on goal. All angles on the field seemed open Friday as the Badgers played the ball up the middle, up the right sideline and up the left sideline. Freshman Sammy Kleedtke and Lauren Rice patrolled the sidelines facilitating crosses and through balls into the center of the box while junior Victoria Pickett, sophomore Dani Rhodes and freshman Cameron Murtha controlled the middle of the field volleying crosses and driving shots down the teeth of the Rockets defense.
Senior goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem had a relatively easy first half as she only needed to make one save, but when a goalkeeper can have a relaxed night in net that means your defense is doing something right. “As a defense, limiting shots on goal has been a big deal for us,” sophomore defender Grace Douglas said. “Looking at our big wins of the season, Virginia and Penn State, our defense has limited powerhouse programs like them to almost no shots on goal.”
The Badgers’ dominance would continue into the second half as both UW and Toledo looked to break 0-0 tie.
As the mercury plummeted further and time went on, the second half started with a bang as Toledo looked aggressive out of the gates pushing the ball down the field towards Clem and her defenders. But soon thereafter, Wisconsin broke the game's tie as in the 55th minute Douglas netted her first goal of the season off of a free kick by Kleedtke.
Proving all good things come in pairs, four minutes later she headed in her second goal lifting the Badgers to a 2-0 lead.
“The goals are great!” Douglas said. “ I mean I haven't scored all season, and this is the first real season I've been able to contribute on the field for the team.” Both Douglas and head coach Paula Wilkins noted that the two goals opened up Toledo’s defense with Wilkins giving credit to the Badgers’ execution of numerous set pieces.
“I thought as a team we were dominant in possession and very calm on the ball which got us many opportunities in their box,” freshman forward Cameron Murtha said.
Following the back-to-back goals from Douglas, the floodgates opened with freshman forward Lauren Rice scoring off Murtha’s rebound. Sophomore defenseman Jordan McNeese netted a goal assisted by redshirt junior midfielder Alexis Tye and sophomore midfielder Allie Winterfield scored an additional goal assisted by McNeese.
With their victory the Badgers will have the tough task of facing one of the top teams in the nation in front of a hostile crowd. But this Badgers team knows how to rise to the occasion. Wins over the former-No. 3 ranked Virginia Cavaliers and the No. 10 Nittany Lions give the Badgers confidence that they can come up big against talented foes. “When our team gets the ball rolling, I have confidence we can take on anyone, and we have shown that,” Douglas said.
The Badgers will have the opportunity to show once again they are able to perform in big games as they face the Gamecocks Nov. 17 in South Carolina.