Women’s soccer: Badgers host Wolverines Thursday night

first_imgFollowing a pair of impressive road victories against Iowa and Nebraska last weekend, the red-hot Wisconsin women’s soccer team (8-4-3, 5-1-1 Big Ten) will host conference rival Michigan (10-4-1, 5-1-1) Thursday night in a 7 p.m. kickoff.With just four more games remaining in the regular season for each side, Thursday’s contest could be pivotal in the chase for the conference crown as both the Badgers and Wolverines find themselves tied for second in the Big Ten standings, trailing Minnesota by just two points.Last Time OutThe last matchup between the two teams took place early in conference play during the 2014 season. With the score tied 1-1 going into the 89th minute, forward Ani Sarkisian headed in a free kick for her second goal of the match to send the visiting No. 9 Badgers packing with their first loss of the season. The defeat ended up having little impact on Wisconsin’s season, but they still went on to finish second in the regular season standings and win the conference tournament.Wisconsin’s Keys to VictoryContinued improvement from Victoria Pickett: While starting the season as a relatively unknown freshman forward, Pickett became a full-time starter in mid-September and has made considerable strides since. She earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for her road performance last weekend, scoring a goal and notching an assist over the two-game trip to Nebraska and Iowa.Continued success will force the Wolverine defense to spread their attention beyond top scorers Rose Lavelle and McKenna Meuer, giving the Badgers more variety on the attack.Keeping the Streak Alive: It’s been nearly a month since Caitlyn Clem has given up a goal.Over that span, the Badgers have gone unbeaten in six games, winners of five-straight games and improved greatly on offense as the pressure to score has been alleviated. Since Sept. 20, the Badgers have averaged 2.2 goals per game after scoring just one per game in their opening 10 matches.With the Wolverine’s high-powered offense coming off a 3-goal performance against a typically stout Illinois defense (1.14 goals allowed per game), another memorable performance may be required from the first year starting keeper.Opposing Player to Watch: Michigan forward Ani SarkisianWhile already notorious among Badger faithful for her last-second game-winning goal last season, Sarkisian’s most recent performance hasn’t helped to relieve any anxiety going into Thursday. Her hat trick against the Illini last weekend earned her Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week Honors and bumped her season total all the way up to six goals.last_img read more