It’s Friday morning. It’s 25 degrees in Madison at the time of this writing. But there’s something more than the biting winds in the air as I write this at 1:27 a.m.
*takes out megaphone*
ITS PLAYOFF SOCCER THAT’S IN THE AIR BAYBEE WAKE UP WISCONSIN THAT’S RIGHT IT’S A SPECIAL EDITION BADGER WOMEN’S SOCCER NCAA TOURNAMENT PREVIEW/HYPE POST!
TODAY THE DYNASTY THE NATION LOVES TO DOUBT** WILL BE TAKING ON UC IRVINE AT 12:30 PM CT IN A SECOND ROUND MATCH WITH A TRIP TO THE SWEET 16 ON THE LINE. THAT’S RIGHT. WE’VE GOT EARLY AFTERNOON PLAYOFF SOCCER ON A FRIDAY. IT DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THIS FOLKS. POUND A SPOTTED COW AND GET YOUR BADGER MERCH ON BECAUSE IT’S GAMEDAY!!!!!!!
**this characterization may be slightly editorialized
*puts away megaphone*
So let’s learn a little about the Anteaters (fantastic mascot, BTW). They got to this point by way of winning the Big West championship, a title they built on in a major way by pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the year so far, downing two seed UCLA in the first round in Los Angeles (more like Loss Angeles am I right fella- you know what forget I tried that). It was redshirt freshman Alyssa Moore who broke through for UCI in the first half, scoring the opening goal to give the Anteaters a lead they would never relinquish.
Moore is part of a young core that has powered UCI so far this season- of the seven Anteaters to register seven or more points so far this season, six are underclassmen. The lone upperclassmen in that seven, however, is the most prolific- Scarlett Camberos leads the team in both goals and assists, totaling a whopping 33 points (Moore, the second highest points leader on the team, for context, has 16 to her name). 13 goals from the midfield is no easy feat, and expect Camberos to be a driving factor in a UCI attack that will be looking to break down a stout Badger defense today.
Speaking of that Badger defense- it’s been pretty dang good recently. In their last seven matches, Wisconsin have allowed a grand total of five goals. The last time the Badgers let in more than two goals in a game, it was a 70 degree Sunday in Madison, and Iowa and Penn State were ranked third and fourth in the AP football poll respectively.
I’ll give everyone a minute to finish laughing.
We’re all good? Alright, back to the game preview. On the attacking end, Wisconsin hasn’t been electric this season (are they ever?), but have started to find their feet in recent games when it’s mattered most. Natalie Viggiano, back from an ACL tear that kept her out all of last season, was the hero last Friday against Butler, scoring both of the Badgers’ goals in the 2-1 win. She’s joined in attacking midfield by Emma Jaskaniec, who leads the team in both goals and points- expect that duo to spearhead the majority of Wisconsin’s attacks.
In summary, this Badger squad is a team that’s built for tournament soccer, principally because tournament soccer is played in November and (hopefully) December. That means cold weather soccer.
Today’s match being played in Virginia (Georgetown being the host of this quadrant’s matchups) unfortunately keeps us from seeing another 20 degree snow game like last week, but the forecast is calling for a reasonably chilly forty degree day. Irvine, California does not see many of those, to say the least.
But the other, more tactically-astute reason this Wisconsin team is built for tournament soccer is because the nature of play favors physical, defensively solid teams that can outlast their opponents in the event of a slugfest that goes 110 minutes.
This Badger team tied more games (four) than they won (three) or lost (three) in conference play this year. Come tournament time, those ties get to go to penalty shootouts. And we know how good Wisconsin goalkeeper Jordyn Bloomer is in those (see: last year against Northwestern).
In short, the Badgers will likely want to keep this game physical, slow-paced, and low-scoring. Remind you of any other Wisconsin teams? (trick question- it’s all of them). God this school rocks. You can catch the game at 12:30 CT on ESPN+ or, if you happen to be a reader of this blog in the Northern Virginia area, live at George Mason Stadium in Fairfax, Virginia for $10. Go Badgers, baby!