The No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers (1-1-0) got their first victory of the season, beating the Hartford Hawks (0-1-1) 2-0 in the opening home game of the season.
UW suffered a 2-1 opening day defeat to the Grand Canyon University Lopes, and assistant coach Aaron Hohlbein said the team was looking forward to play on their home soil.
The Badgers got a quick start with a goal in the 13th minute. Junior midfielder Duncan Storey, a transfer from the Air Force Acamdey, may have polished off the goal, but it was the epitome of a team goal.
The play started from the keeper, and intricate passing on the right wing gave freshman midfielder Olafur Olafsson an opening for a nice cutback cross for Storey to polish off. Storey said scoring his first goal for the Badgers was awesome, but he’s been happy to be fitting into the side so quickly.
“Coming into a new team, you don’t really know what to expect or know everyone,” Storey said. “I think the guys have helped make me fit in. Being able to contribute is awesome.”
Soon after Storey’s opener, the Badgers were tested by the Hawks. A slip by sophomore defender Zach Klancnik gave Hawks’ forward Nyrik Antoine some space at the top of the box but dragged his shot just wide.
Junior goalkeeper Dean Cowdroy had to make three saves, including a block on the onrushing senior midfielder Xanhe Reid that seemed a sure goal. There were a few quick counters for Hartford that caused some panic for the backline in the first half, and Hohlbein believes there is “room for improvement.”
“It was great to get the clean sheet, but we definitely gotta tighten things up, cut out some of those counter attacks, just be a little bit tighter around the back,” Hohlbein said.
In the first minute of the second half, Hartford had its best shot of the night. Reid, who led the Hawks on the night with four shots, cut inside from the left and curled the ball toward the net. Cowdroy needed all of his 5-8 frame to tip the ball over the bar and keep the lead for the Badgers.
But after that first chance, the Badgers settled down and put lots of pressure on the Hawks, especially from set pieces. Senior defender Isaac Schlenker forced a great save from 25 yards by junior goalkeeper Jimmy Slayton in the 58th minute while junior midfield Noah Leibold was a constant threat with his service from curling balls into the box.
While Wisconsin dominated, they weren’t quite able to put Hartford away until the 82nd minute. After sophomore forward Alex Alfaro skillfully glided past his defender, he played freshman forward Andrew Akindele into the box. After Akindele was taken down, the Badgers earned a penalty.
Leibold stepped up to take the penalty. Despite only one career goal, the captain felt he had no other option that to step up and take it.
“I had to do it,” Leibold said with a laugh.
Leibold slid it into the right corner just past the arms of the keeper Slayton to make it 2-0 and game over for the Badgers.
Wisconsin will be happy to get its first win under their belt. Two teams that reached the NCAA Tournament are coming to town this weekend as the Badgers will take on the Fordham Rams on Friday and the Valparaiso Crusaders on Sunday.