On Saturday night, in front of a crowd of 12, the Wisconsin Badgers women’s soccer team dispatched Iowa 1-0 in their season opener.
Despite the long offseason, the Badgers didn’t waste any time in finding their footing in Loves Park. Ten minutes into the match, Claire Odmark received a pass from Emma Jaskaniec and guided it into the far corner of the net with a curled effort. For the rest of the contest Wisconsin struggled for the same efficiency Odmark displayed on their first chance, struggling to test Iowa goalie Monica Wilhem past the occasional clever free kick routine.
Coach Paula Wilkins was unafraid to give plenty of chances to her younger core in their first ever match as Badgers. Freshmen Jessie Hunt and Sophia Romine both earned starts in the opener, and fellow rookies Porter List and Dara Andringa also earned their debuts as substitutes in the first half. Over half of the initial starting eleven fielded by Wilkins were underclassmen.
Iowa was not without chances, most notably a heart stopping crossbar hit in the final minutes, but Jordyn Bloomer and a steady Badgers defense successfully smothered any attacks that managed to break through. Wilkins’ preferred combination of Verdugo, Kleedtke, Shea and Monticello gelled superbly in their first test of the spring as a starting unit, providing a strong combination of power, speed and aerial presence in front of Bloomer.
The rotating midfield unit of Maia Cella, Hunt, Sophia and Andringa served as the chief creative force for the Badgers, consistently both spearheading attacks heading forward as well as dropping back deeper to receive passes from the defense. The tempo-setting by the midfield proved crucial to the Badgers success.
With the win, No. 152 in her career, head coach Paula Wilkins is now the winningest coach in school history!
The win takes Wisconsin to 1-0 on the season, while Iowa drops to 0-1. The Badgers will be back in action this Thursday in Columbus, Ohio as they take on the Ohio State Buckeyes.