Pair of Michigan teams await Wisconsin on road trip

first_imgThe Wisconsin women’s soccer team looks to remain unbeaten on the road this weekend as it plays Friday at No. 16 Michigan and Sunday at Michigan State. The Badgers (6-1-1) are coming off a key conference victory this past Sunday in West Lafayette against Purdue and are looking to finish off their three-match road swing strong.Wisconsin’s perfect record on the road this season has been impressive to say the least. However, even with a promising start to the season thus far, head coach Paula Wilkins knows the team can still needs to make improvements to continue its success.“We’ve looked into solidifying some of the issues we had with Purdue,” Wilkins said. “We want to improve some things defensively as a team, not just in the back, and make our team defending more collective and give [the players] some different ideas of how to be creative and fun with it.”The Badgers looked both physically and mentally tough in training for their upcoming games against the Wolverines and Spartans, and Wilkins knows preparation is key.“We worked on sorting out our team defending, and some better individual defending that would help with the team,” Wilkins said. “We worked on our shape and some different spacing that we needed to sort out as well. It was just making sure we are sharp with all our details in our training.”When asked how her players remain so poised on the road, Wilkins said the team stays focused well, and they maintain good habits on the road.This week, UW jumped from 24 to 18 in the top 25 of the coaches’ poll, and they are thrilled about their current position. On behalf of the team, sophomore midfielder Kinley McNicoll was happy to receive the recognition Wisconsin got from the other coaches around the country.“It’s really exciting,” McNicoll said. “We want to keep moving up and up. It’s really cool how we’ve progressed and I think moving forward in the season we will (continue to do so).”The Badgers were not ranked in the top 25 to start the season, but their continued perseverance has allowed them to move up in the polls. Wilkins, though, knows they need to play many more games before it’s worth buying into the recent ranking. The end of the season remains plenty of weeks away.“To me, it doesn’t matter where you are in the middle of the season. It only matters where you end up,” Wilkins said. “It’s a great complement to the players. I’m happy with where the program is, but you’re only as good as your last game.”And with a 3-1 win Sunday over the Boilermakers, the Badgers appear pretty imposing for the Big Ten conference so far. The nonconference opponents Wisconsin faced earlier in the season, though, are what Wilkins believes has produced a formidable team in the Badgers. It’s a schedule set up to benefit Wisconsin as they gear toward the second half of the season.“We’ve played some tough nonconference opponents, [and] we’ve played a lot of games on the road,” Wilkins said. “We do that to prepare ourselves. Every game in the Big Ten is a tough game; there is no easy game. In the Big Ten there’s more on the line, those are always more challenging games, a lot more physical too.”The importance of these next two Big Ten games goes without saying. Wisconsin will need to continue their momentum in order to win the conference, but the Big Ten is also not the easiest conference, as players like McNicoll are well aware.“There’s a different atmosphere because everyone has the Big Ten championship in mind,” McNicoll said. “Everyone wants it and it’s a huge title. I think there’s more intensity but we try and handle every game the same.”last_img