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Young Badger team starts out season in right direction

first_imgLaura Hill / The Badger HeraldThe start of the 2012 season for the UW women’s soccer team can be safely classified as one thing compared to last year’s season: different.The No. 14 Badgers (4-1-0) were undefeated after their first three games, a first for UW since 2005. In 2011, UW opened with a 2-1 record, winning games by a single goal. However, Wisconsin managed to outscore their opponents 10-0 in the first three games of 2012, and head coach Paula Wilkins can be nothing but pleased with her team’s progress.“Any coach will tell you that if you start off the season with three wins, you’ve got to be happy. So I am, and this group has been a lot different than in the past,” Wilkins, in her sixth year as head coach, said. “Last year, we got kind of put back because of not reaching our goals right at the first part, but this team is just taking it game by game, and it is a pretty cool experience.”After starting off the year with three wins, Wisconsin headed to California for a two game road trip. On Friday UW suffered its first loss of the season to No. 2 UCLA 2-0. Sunday was a different story as the Badgers bounced right back with a 4-2 victory over Loyola-Marymount.Wisconsin has only four returning starters, making their early success that much more impressive. Sophomore forward Cara Walls is looking to continue her dominant play up top, after leading UW in scoring with nine goals during her breakout freshman season.Graduated forward Laurie Nosbusch was instrumental to Walls’ success last season, acting as her mentor and partner for the Wisconsin offense.“It is really hard now that [Nosbusch] is not here anymore, but it was really beneficial for me to have played with her, to learn how to play that position successfully,” Walls said. “There is a lot of responsibility as a forward to score goals … I do feel more responsible now.”Starting alongside Walls is redshirt junior forward Paige Adams. After not playing during the 2010 season due to an injury, Adams recovered and played in 14 games last season.Also returning to the offensive mix is redshirt sophomore Kodee Williams – who missed last season with an injury – after starting all 20 games her freshman season.“[Walls and Adams] are a great compliment to each other and on top of that Williams coming in … those guys have been a force up front and really helpful to each other,” Wilkins said. “They have built a great dynamic group.”A new defensive lookSenior captain Lindsey Johnson is the lone returning starter for Wisconsin’s defense. Johnson has served as an anchor for the back line since her freshman year, and also provides a link to the offense, placing third in assists last season with four.Three freshman, Alexandra Heller, Brianna Stelzer and Lexi Peterson have played alongside Johnson in the opening games for UW this season.Wilkins said that the chemistry among the team has been the best she has seen in her six years as the Badgers head coach.With the loss of rock solid Michelle Dalton, UW’s starting goaltender last season, a key question for Wisconsin was who would fill the spot in front of the net. Redshirt senior and captain Lauren Gunderson has stepped up and made an early impact, recording shutouts in all three games. Gunderson has also been active in establishing the defensive line, and Wilkins says she serves as both a positive motivator and organizer to her young defensemen.“[Gunderson]’s got a great personality and is kind of the humorous one on the team and I think that brings players in and there has been good communication,” Wilkins said. “And having three freshman on the backline, that is important because being a fifth year senior, she has kind of taken them under her wing and that has built chemistry.”Committee of LeadersLeadership within the team will be a decisive factor fot the Badgers’ continued success. Seniors Monica Lam-Feist and Joana Bielefeld will serve as captains along with Johnson and Gunderson this season.Lam-Feist has started in the midfield for UW since her freshman season, providing a link up the field with an offensive mind. Bielefeld had a breakout season last year, starting all twenty games for Wisconsin and named the Badgers most improved player at season’s end.Gunderson said that with all four captains having different personalities, they have been able to mesh well with one another and create a well-rounded core leadership group.Wilkins, likewise, is impressed with both the group of leaders taking the field in 2012 and the chemistry among the team.“The seniors who are the leaders of the group right now, it is almost a committee. They all have special qualities that have done a lot for the program,” Wilkins said. “That [chemistry] will be important for building a foundation so along the way if something happens they are going to be confident in what they can do.”last_img

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