Women’s soccer season roundup: Success achieved through share of Big Ten regular season title, but early departure from conference tournament leaves sour taste

first_imgGoing from concern to resilience to abrupt disappointment, much can be said about the Wisconsin women’s soccer team’s season as a whole.As the teams hangs up their cleats on the 2015 campaign, they can relish in the glory of the regular season conference title, an eight-game winning streak in a competitive Big Ten and a respectable closing record (11-6-3).At the same time, they must own a slow start to the regular season (three wins in first 10 games), back-to-back losses to end their campaign (one of them a first round conference tournament loss) and a failure to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.But the team’s resilience is this season’s key takeaway. Needing to overcome the departures of last year’s graduating seniors, the Badgers were required to get creative, adaptive and tough on both sides of the ball.From the experienced seniors to incoming freshman, everyone got on board and responded to the challenge.Starting on offense, star forwards Cara Walls and Kodee Williams’ departures, who combined to account for half of the team’s 44 goals last season (and 12 game-winners) left a significant void at the forward position with unproven depth to replace it. To help compensate, head coach Paula Wilkins implemented an unconventional offensive scheme dominated by the attacking midfielders.By allowing Rose Lavelle and McKenna Meuer the opportunity to showcase their versatility as scoring threats, the two lead a high-powered aggressive offense that averaged 16 shots per game after a sluggish start to the year. Lavelle especially proved her worth, leading the team with seven goals en route to the only unanimous All-Big Ten selection of the season for any position.It didn’t stop there. As the replacement to all-conference keeper Gen Richard, sophomore Caitlyn Clem came into the season with a lot to prove. With the help of experienced defenders in Molly Laufenberg and Brianna Stelzer, Clem responded to lofty expectations by allowing just 19 goals (0.90 average per game) against 200 shots on the season.Clem is Courtney Clem’s sister, the former starting keeper for Michigan State, and Lauren Clem’s cousin,the current starting keeper for Northwestern. Clem’s six consecutive shutouts during conference play solidified her status among the Big Ten’s best, and likely a good spot at the Thanksgiving dinner table in the process.Clem wasn’t the only player to make a statement in her first year of action on the pitch. The freshmen forwards, especially Steph Fabry and Victoria Pickett, showed a quick transition into the demands of Big Ten play. Managing to score two goals in limited time off the bench this season, Fabry established herself as opportunistic, and should be a fixture in the starting front next season.Alongside her is Pickett, who as a late addition to the team, notched her first point just 55 minutes into her first game. From that point on, Pickett never looked back, providing the offense with a much-needed midseason spark to earn Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. The team will part ways with graduating Canadian star Kinley McNicoll, but with Pickett leading the charge for the next three years, Canada will be well represented in red and white.At the team’s low point of the season, a 4-0 loss to archrival Penn State that dropped them below .500, Wilkins gathered her team around and asked two simple questions:“Who do you want to be? How do you want to go down?”When they hoisted the Big Ten trophy a month later for the first time in 21 years, the answer was clear.Looking at what they have in place for the future, the answer could very well remain the same.last_img

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