Wisconsin women’s sports are flying high.
We’ve always known that Wisconsin was place to be for women’s sports. 2017-18 is shaping up to be more of the same.
Women’s hockey is No. 1 in the country, undefeated after a pair of road wins over the weekend at Michigan Tech. The Badgers sit on top of the polls despite losing one of the best goaltenders in the world (Ann-Renée Desbiens) and their co-leader in goals last year (Sarah Nurse) to graduation, as well as their other co-leader and their No. 3 goal scorer from 2016-17 (Annie Pankowski and Emily Clark) to Olympic centralization.
In a year that could have been a total rebuild, the women’s hockey team has rolled. A pair of transfers have been critical to the early-season success, which has seen 12 Badgers score goals in Wisconsin’s first eight games.
Captain Claudia Kepler, who sat out last season after transferring from Ohio State, leads the team with five goals. Redshirt sophomore goaltender Kristen Campbell, a North Dakota transfer able to play this season because the Fighting Hawks women’s program was shut down after last year, has started and won all eight games.
Reloading is a recurring theme for the Badgers women’s teams. Over in the Field House, a very young volleyball team sits No. 9 in the country after a week that saw it upend then No. 4 Nebraska.
The 2017 team fields only two seniors and two juniors, and 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Molly Haggerty will miss the entire season while recovering from a back injury. Despite this, Wisconsin is holding tough in a buzzsaw of a Big Ten that currently has five teams in the top 10 nationally.
The Badgers have reloaded on the back of a stellar freshman class including middle blocker Dana Rettke, who on Monday won Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the fifth time this season, and setter Sydney Hilley, who has stepped in admirably for all-time Wisconsin great Lauren Carlini after she graduated.
Senior Kelli Bates, junior Tionna Williams, and redshirt sophomore Madison Duello have all been productive for the Badgers, who look like they are settling for a lengthy period of sustained success, both in 2017 (they are eighth in the RPI rankings released Monday) and moving forward.
No. 17 women’s cross country is making noise with some strong showings this year, including a second-place finish at the Greater Louisville Classic, led by sophomore Amy Davis and senior Sarah Disanza. Sophomore Alicia Monson has also run well for the Badgers, with strong showings in Louisville and last weekend at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitation in Madison.
Women’s soccer has seen some pretty high highs this year, including a stunning upset over then-No. 3 Virginia in Charlottesville. Sophomore phenom Dani Rhodes leads the team with nine goals, which is tied for third in the Big Ten. Redshirt senior goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem has been stellar for Wisconsin, starting all 16 games with a 0.92 GAA and seven shutouts.
Top-to-bottom success across programs is the mark of an exceptional athletic department. With so many teams flying high this season, it’s safe to say things are pretty exceptional right now for Wisconsin’s women’s sports.