Women’s soccer drops Buckeyes, still cannot solve Nittany Lions

first_imgComing into the weekend riding three straight shutout victories in conference play, the No. 13 Wisconsin women’s soccer team looked ready to take control of the Big Ten.Facing a revamped Ohio State squad Friday and No. 7 Penn State Sunday, the challenged proved to be difficult, and ultimately the Badgers (11-2-0, 5-2 Big Ten) came away with just one win.In front of 760 fans at the McClimon Complex Friday night, the Badgers hosted Ohio State (5-7-0, 2-4 Big Ten) in what turned out to be a lopsided contest in favor of Wisconsin. After firing off eight shots in the first half, the Badgers finally got on the board with an impressive 35-yard free kick goal by sophomore Rose Lavelle, her second of the season. The unassisted shot traveled all the way through the box and off the post, ricocheting in for a 1-0 Badgers lead heading into the second half.The second half displayed more of the offensive dominance by Wisconsin, keeping its foot on the gas to the tune of seven more shots on goal in comparison to the Buckeyes’ three. The recent return of all-conference sophomore forward Nichelle Prince was encouraging for Ohio State, but she was limited to just one shot on goal during the contest.The final score of the game came in the 64th minute following a cross from junior defender Molly Laufenberg to senior forward Cara Walls, who beat the keeper high to find the net from the top of the box, making it 2-0. After starting the season with seven goals in her first six games, her eighth goal Friday marks her first score since being sidelined with an ankle injury at the beginning of Big Ten play back in mid-September.Sunday’s matchup against Penn State (12-1-0, 7-0 Big Ten) ultimately determined the Big-Ten favorite halfway through the conference schedule. With an even stat line all around for both teams for scoring opportunities and shots on goal – Penn State had 10 shots and Wisconsin had nine – it came down to a few fateful bounces in favor of the Nittany Lions.The first 10 minutes consisted of a defensive battle by both teams, with neither offense being able to sustain possession in the attacking third. The first major opportunity for Wisconsin came off a corner kick in the 11th minute, which junior defender Brianna Stelzer barely missed with a header over the bar.The near miss for the Badgers became a theme for the rest of the game, and Walls reflected on their opportunities after the match in a forthright manner.“It was definitely one of those games. We had our chances, they had their chances. They finished theirs, we didn’t,” Walls said. “We had some wide-open sitters just like they did; they put theirs away, and we didn’t. I thought it was a pretty even game.”Immediately following the corner came a breakaway opportunity for Penn State in the 12th minute, which ended with a diving save by Badger’s senior goalkeeper Genevieve Richard on a dangerous cross over the middle. The stop was one of many made by Richard on the afternoon, who was quick to recognize and clear out Penn State’s chances on goal throughout the first half.Richard, who was certainly more busy defending her goal than in previous home games, didn’t notice anything different in the intensity of her team’s play but echoed the comments of Walls in terms of closing out chances.“I thought we played well; the effort was definitely there. I think maybe we needed to move the ball a little faster and put it a little wider, just little details,” Richard said. “And just our finishing, like what [head] coach [Paula] Wilkins said, it just came down to who finished their chances and who didn’t. So it’s part of the game, and when you play against good teams, it is what it is.”Despite a series of breakaways, one of them being a one-on-one shot gone far-left by Walls, the Badgers failed to test Penn State goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom in the first half. While both teams passed well in the middle-third, both attacking units had trouble breaking through the last line of defense. Multiple chances arose with open balls in the box following deflections, but neither team could capitalize in the scoreless first half.Although Wisconsin’s defensive backline of Stelzer, Laufenberg and redshirt senior Alexandra Heller contained Penn State’s high-powered attack, which averages 2.57 goals per game in Big Ten play, the Nittany Lions finally broke through in the second half with a goal by freshman midfielder Emily Ogle. After a diving save by Penn State’s Eckerstrom on a one-on-one shot by Lavelle at point-blank range in the 77th minute, the Nittany Lions came roaring back on the counterattack. A cross from junior Mallory Weber found Ogle in the back of the box for the easy tap-in and 1-0 lead.In response, Wisconsin amped up their offensive numbers, leaving the defense vulnerable and ultimately susceptible to another cross-goal in the 89th by sophomore midfielder Salina Williford in the 2-0 final.In spite of her disappointment, Wilkins said the team can benefit from the challenging experience Sunday.“By playing a good team it shows our weaknesses that we still have six games to go and get better at,” Wilkins said. “So that’s going to be really important for us, to learn from this game and move on.”last_img

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