After a tough 1-0 home victory over Milwaukee (8-0-1 Horizon League, 17-2-1 overall) in the last round, the No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers (10-0-1 Big Ten, 16-3-2 overall) travelled to L.A. and emerged victorious in a hard fought battle over Duke (3-1-6 ACC, 9-4-7) to move on to the round of sixteen. It will be a quick turnaround for the Badgers, as they play No. 7 UCLA (8-3-0 Pac-12, 16-4-1) Sunday evening. It will be a very difficult matchup, as UCLA ran through their first two opponents in the tournament, Lamar University and Clemson, 4-1 and 5-0 respectively.
The Bruins are also responsible for one of the two Badger defeats during the regular season.
In the first half, the Badgers controlled play for the most part, with a definite advantage in possession; most of the half was played on Duke’s half of the field. The Badgers were unable to take advantage of this control however, and the game was scoreless for the half.
The second half was a very different story however. When in possession, the Blue Devils were very effective. They were able to put together heavy passing sequences with one-touch passes that cut through the stringent Wisconsin defense. In a rare occurrence for the Badgers, the Blue Devils controlled the pace of play for much of the second half while redshirt junior goalkeeper Jordyn Bloomer, the Big Ten goalkeeper of the year, had her work cut out for her, compiling four saves in the half. Bloomer and the rest of the Badger defense completed the shutout, the teams 12th of the season. It was also Bloomer’s fourth shutout in five career tournament starts.
It wasn’t until the 78th minute that the Badgers finally pulled ahead on an unbelievable sequence of play from Big Ten forward of the year Dani Rhodes. Rhodes found herself just inside the top of the box surrounded by five Duke defenders without a teammate in sight. After a quick turnaround to lose the defender directly in front of her, Rhodes delivered a falling weak footed shot, that, despite her lack of solid footing, had enough power behind it for the ball to skip once into the right post, netting just past the diving goalkeeper. It was Rhodes’ second goal of this tournament, eighth goal in career tournament play, and 13th on the season.
All signs point towards a fantastic game on Sunday evening, with the Badgers trying to turn the tables on UCLA and emerge victorious in their rematch with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.