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UW hitting stretch run of Big Ten title race

first_imgFreshman defender Catie Sessions scored her first collegiate over the weekend against Penn State while also adding her third assist.[/media-credit]Wisconsin women’s soccer suffered a tough 1-0 loss at Ohio State Friday to start off the weekend that halted the Badgers’ unbeaten streak at 10. But after that disappointment, the Badgers headed to Penn State. Against the Nittany Lions, Wisconsin (7-4-4, 4-1-2 Big Ten) secured its first win since the Iowa game Oct. 3.As head coach Paula Wilkins spoke Monday, she mentioned it was a total team effort that resulted in the win.“As I told the players after the game, this was their victory,” Wilkins said. “The way they played as a team set the bar for the rest of the Big Ten and showed me they’re ready to beat the rest of the Big Ten.”The game was a homecoming for Wilkins, who grew up near the Penn State campus and had been involved with the women’s soccer program there from the time it became a varsity sport in 1994 until she became the Wisconsin head coach in 2007. That included the 2001-2006 seasons that Wilkins spent as the Nittany Lions’ head coach, leading them to a 109-13-5 record and six NCAA tournament appearances.“It was very exciting and emotional for the coaching staff,” Wilkins said. “These were all my players…[they] had been under my philosophy, under my tactics, under my sort of culture change. For them to beat Penn State after four years was pretty amazing.”Penn State’s Jeffrey Field, Wilkins’ old stomping ground, is one of the hardest places for visiting teams to win in the country, but under her lead, the Badgers did just that.“Penn State has only lost three games ever, and we were the third, ever on Jeffrey Field,” Wilkins said. “That was an accomplishment, as I mentioned to [my team]. That was [my team’s] victory, more than anything: They had done things that other teams had not done.”Wilkins also emphasized the importance of using the Penn State game to propel them through the final three games of the regular season.“I told them, ‘This can’t just be a small stepping stone. You guys keep building on that,” Wilkins said. “To go to a place where you know the mystique is so great because you helped build it, knowing that to break it down is difficult, especially the way we did it…it’s an emotional roller coaster.”Team ChemistryWilkins said that she is seeing her team come closer together during the final stretch of the regular season, as emphasized by the play of some freshmen on the team.“I think it speaks volumes for the team that as the team has evolved they have let freshmen have a huge impact,” Wilkins said. “Sometimes upper-classmen sort of watch after their territory but this team isn’t like that.”Kodee Williams, a freshman, drilled the winning goal against Penn State for her second of her season and career. Another freshman contributor, midfielder Catie Sessions, scored the first goal at Penn State and assisted the second. She has three assists on the season.Wilkins also acknowledged the play of some of the upper-classmen on the club, juniors Erin Jacobsen and Laurie Nosbusch.“I think [Jacobsen] is probably the biggest unsung hero of our team,” Wilkins said. “She doesn’t really have the stats to show it but yesterday in the game, probably against one of the best players in college soccer, Christine Nairn, she basically shut her down. What she did really was a key to the game, a key to our success.”Nosbusch is the team’s leading goal scorer with five after Sunday’s game.“[Nosbusch] just scoring goals [contributes],” Wilkins said. “I think the commentators said that sometimes they’re not the prettiest goals. Sometimes they are very good goals, but sometimes they’re just scrappy and I think the goal she scored against Penn State was a testament to that.”The spirit of the bench players and the way the team has bonded with each other has especially caught the eye of Wilkins.“When I said it was a team victory, it wasn’t just the 12 people that played,” Wilkins said. “The people on the bench brought the energy needed to overwhelm and overcome what Penn State had there. We’ve talked about that all year and it’s really been the [thing] with our team, the bonding and the attitude of everyone involved, understanding what role they play and how they affect the outcome.”In second place and closing the season with three games at home versus Michigan State Friday, Michigan Sunday, and Northwestern Nov. 1, Wisconsin is looking to win its first Big Ten title under Wilkins. An emphasis has been placed on changing the culture of Wisconsin women’s soccer since Wilkins entered, something she says she’s beginning to see.“They understand they can fight in games and battle,” Wilkins said. “Their resolve is incredible, they [don’t] flinch…They believe they can do anything. And that really goes to the leadership of the team.”last_img read more

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