Big Ten title well worth wait for women’s soccer

first_imgAs penalty kicks loomed large to decide the finals of the Big Ten Tournament, the No. 11 Wisconsin women’s soccer team broke through in the waning minutes against Iowa to claim the title in a dramatic 1-0 double overtime victory.In a tournament packed with upsets, including top seed Penn State getting bounced in the first round by an upstart Northwestern squad, the underdog Hawkeyes (14-7-1 overall, 7-6-1 Big Ten) nearly forced the Badgers into an anything-goes penalty kick shootout before Wisconsin’s junior midfielder Kinley McNicoll ended the match in a shocking fashion.With six minutes left in the second overtime period, the Badgers’ (18-2-2, 10-2-2 Big Ten) attacking front forced a corner kick, just their second one of the game. The Hawkeyes lined up with each of the Wisconsin attackers in the box to avoid the chance of a game-ending header. While the kick from McNicoll didn’t connect with any of her teammates, it landed somewhere far better: the back of the net.The kick, which traveled though the box and over the reaching hands of Hawkeye goalkeeper Kiley Beck, had just enough curve to avoid the defenders and send the ball into the goal for the first time all afternoon.The breakthrough score was well deserved for the Badgers, who had tallied up an astounding 23 shots, including seven on goal, leading up to the defining moment. Up until she left the game in the 94th minute, Iowa’s original keeper Hannah Clark was making a strong case for player of the match, racking up an impressive six saves and zero goals allowed against a formidable Badgers attack.Offensively for the Badgers, the midfielders took control of the game. With a combined six shots on goal between McNicoll and sophomore Rose Lavelle, the duo combined for 75 percent of the Badgers’ on-target attempts.Just like they have all season-long, the Badgers backline kept their team in the game throughout, led by the efforts of junior Brianna Stelzer, sophomore Kylie Schwarz and redshirt senior Alexandra Heller. In 103 minutes of play, UW limited Iowa’s offense to just six shots and only required Wisconsin’s redshirt senior Genevieve Richard to make one save.To earn its berth in the Big Ten finals, Wisconsin cruised past Illinois in their opening match and held onto a 1-0 victory in the second round over Minnesota. The dynamic senior forward duo of Kodee Williams and senior forward Cara Walls took command against the Illini, putting the game away early with a first half goal by the Badgers’ striker. Junior midfielder McKenna Meuer scored the lone goal against Minnesota in the eighth minute, which was coincidentally her lone goal of the season so far.The Badgers’ Big Ten Tournament victory is their first since 2005 and the first in the eight-year tenure of head coach Paula Wilkins. For their efforts in their three victories, McNicoll won the tournament’s Offensive MVP award, Richard won Defensive MVP, and Walls earned All-Tournament honors.With the victory, the Badgers also secured the most wins in school history with their 18th.The Badgers now await news of their seeding and opening round opponent for the NCAA tournament, as the committee releases the bracket Monday at 3:30 CT.last_img

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