Semester in Review: Badgers go into the break

first_imgBRYAN FAUST & GREGORY DIXON/Herald photosFOOTBALLBret Bielema’s rookie season can’t get much better.Well, a win at the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day would do the trick.But regardless of the outcome in Orlando, the Badgers can take pride in producing one of the greatest seasons in the history of the program.The 2006 Wisconsin football team, without the benefit of a bowl game just yet, has already posted UW’s highest win total in any individual season ever, with an astounding 11-1 record nobody thought possible five months ago.Why were the Badgers written off before the season began? Consider:An offense with just three returning starters. John Stocco became one of the elite quarterbacks in the Big Ten, P.J. Hill was a more-than-pleasant surprise as a freshman tailback and Joe Thomas was simply the best lineman in all of college football, as affirmed by his recent capture of the Outland Trophy.A defense without any top stars. Mike Hankwitz’s unit was the strong point coming out of fall camps, to be sure. But there didn’t seem to be one guy that stepped up as the rock of the defense. Perhaps that was just the thing UW’s defense needed, as steady contributors Jonathan Casillas, Jason Chapman, Jack Ikegwuonu, Joe Stellmacher, Mark Zalewski and others helped Wisconsin’s defense.Can you say: rookie coach? Bret Bielema can’t. Not only did Bielema coach like a seasoned veteran; he acted as such off the field, saying all the right things and emerging as the fearless leader of the Wisconsin team that supposedly “overachieved” in 2006.The No. 6 AP ranking and a trip to a New Year’s Day bowl? Doesn’t get much better.-Aaron BrennerVOLLEYBALLEven though Wisconsin’s volleyball team posted another successful season, finishing with a 26-7 record, it ended in postseason disappointment yet again.Wisconsin tipped off the season by hosting the AVCA Volleyball Showcase, hosting fellow top-ranked teams Washington, Texas and Ohio. And while the Badgers dropped their first game to the Longhorns, freshman outside hitter Brittney Dolgner had her coming-out party in a five-game match against the Ohio Bobcats by posting a team-high 13 kills in game two.Dolgner would continue to pace the Badgers all season long, leading the team with 4.12 kills per game en route to being named to the All-Big Ten team, the first freshman in Wisconsin school history to do so.Senior floor captain and outside hitter Maria Carlini suffered a foot injury early in the Big Ten season, causing Wisconsin to cough up a two-game lead to Ohio State on the road.The Badgers soon found their stride, however, and it was evident when the No. 2 Penn State Nittany Lions came to the Field House on October 27. Not only did Wisconsin beat Penn State for the first time since 2003, but it did so in a commanding sweep.Wisconsin headed into the postseason having won nine of its last 10 matches and hoped to improve upon its Elite Eight finishes of the previous three years.The tenth-seeded Badgers swept through the first round, but were then paired against the team they played to start the season, the Texas Longhorns. This time playing at Texas, Wisconsin’s season ended just like it started — swept by the Longhorns.-Michael PoppyMEN’S SOCCERLike many unfortunate men, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team (9-8-2, 3-3-1 Big Ten) climaxed much too early this past season. After starting off warm with a 3-3 record in the beginning of the year, the Badgers turned up the heat and went on a six-game unbeaten streak, rising to the top of the Big Ten in the process and securing a No. 22 national ranking.Unfortunately, the Badgers dropped their last four games, including a match to Indiana that would have given Wisconsin the Big Ten title. Following its 1-0 loss to Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, Wisconsin did not receive an NCAA bid and its 2006 campaign came to an abrupt end.On the bright side, the Badgers did come — albeit not long enough — to play this season. Senior Jake Settle started in all 19 matches between the posts and tallied eight shutouts and 61 saves. For his efforts, Settle earned the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honor three separate times and was named to the all-conference second team. Also starting in every match were core senior defenders Hamid Afsari and Aaron Hohlbein.While Afsari made the College Soccer News National Team of the week back in October, Hohlbein took home a slew of awards at the end of the year. After first receiving a unanimous first-team selection for the Big Ten all-conference squad, Hohlbein was then named a third-team NSCAA All-American. The dynamic defender now looks forward to a possible selection in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft.In addition to Settle and Hohlbein, three other players on head coach Jeff Rohrman’s squad received all-conference honors at seasons end — Victor Diaz earned second-team honors while Eric Conklin and Pablo Delgado were each named to the all-freshman squad.Despite losing eight seniors, the Badgers now look forward to the spring season.-Matthew KrejcarekWOMEN’S SOCCERThe Wisconsin’s women’s soccer team came into this season looking to build off last year’s Big Ten Tournament title and its appearance in the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, the Badgers were unable to reach those marks again this season.The Badgers fell to Illinois 3-0 in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, bringing to an end a season that was filled with streaky play and missed opportunities.”One or two little things can change your season,” head coach Dean Duerst said. “Momentum was probably the biggest factor; we didn’t catch a ride of momentum.”On offense, the Badgers were led by sophomore forward Taylor Walsh with 17 points. Five other players registered at least nine points during the year, but even with such balanced scoring, the team could still go cold. The team was shutout six times during the year, including five of its last six matches of the season.The Badgers were not consistent enough on the defensive side of the ball for Duerst’s liking either. The team registered five shutouts during the year, but still gave up 1.42 goals per game, putting them second to last in the Big Ten.”We were just a little too inconsistent,” Duerst saidWhile the season may have seemed like a down year, there were some things that pleasantly surprised Duerst this year. He liked seeing the offense with its balanced scoring and he liked that some freshmen got quite a bit of playing time. Four freshmen specifically saw action in at least 12 matches.Regardless of how the team was going to finish this year, it was going to be a special season because it marked the 25th anniversary of the women’s soccer program. Duerst said it was a great experience for his team.”A lot of alumni came back and our team got to experience their stories on a real special night,” he said. “That’s something I’ll remember forever.”-Karl AndersonWOMEN’S BASKETBALLOnly one game remains for the Wisconsin women’s basketball team before they begin their Big Ten season. Friday’s game will match the Badgers up against the Harvard Crimson. Like Wisconsin, Harvard (2-6, 0-0 Ivy League) has several talented freshmen that have already seen action on the court this season.The next two weeks will provide the team to get some much-needed rest. Earlier in the season, many of the Badger players suffered from the flu, including standout guard Jolene Anderson and head coach Lisa Stone. After resting for a few days, Anderson bounced back with her best performance of the year, scoring 28 points in a win over Albany.”We’ve just got to stay together,” Anderson said. “Hopefully we go into the Big Ten season 12-1, but if we’re not, then we can’t hang our heads low because we’ve still got Big Ten teams to play against.”Wisconsin will kick off the Big Ten season with a game against Northwestern (7-3, 0-0 Big Ten) at the Kohl Center on Dec. 28 and will then travel to East Lansing on New Years Eve to play Michigan State in one of their toughest games of the year. The Spartans are currently ranked 18 in the AP Poll and have a record of 7-1.The Badgers will also play Minnesota and Michigan on the road in early January, and will return to Madison to take on Illinois on Jan. 14 and eighth-ranked Ohio State four days later in what should prove to be another tough test.”We just need to play hard,” UW forward Caitlin Gibson said. “Once we get into the Big Ten [season], it’s going to be a lot different. They’re bigger, they’re faster, and they’re stronger.”-Tyler MasonWOMEN’S HOCKEYDespite settling for two ties last weekend against St. Cloud St., the No. 2 UW Women’s hockey team will still head into their winter break atop the WCHA leaderboard with 27 points, four ahead of second-place MinnesotaBeginning the season as the defending champions and nation’s top ranked team, the Badgers (16-1-3, 12-1-3 WCHA) won 13 of their first 14 games and extended their record unbeaten streak to 26 games before finally falling to Minnesota-Duluth 2-0 on Nov. 24.Strong play by goalies Christine DuFour and Jessie Vetter, who have been splitting time between the pipes, have anchored the Badger defense, while senior Sara Bauer, who broke the school’s all-time women’s scoring record already this year, has led the offense and is currently the leading scorer in the country. Fellow Badgers Jinelle Zaugg, Meghan Duggan and Erika Lawler are also among the nation’s point leaders.The Badgers will return from their month long break on Jan. 5 when they travel to Minnesota to take on the arch-rival Gophers. Control of the conference will be at stake as a Badger sweep would put the team far ahead of the pack for the conference’s top spot.Following a non-conference visit from Providence the following weekend, the Badgers will play five straight conference series, including a rematch with the only team to beat them, Minnesota-Duluth, before heading into the post-season.With the WCHA playoffs and NCAA tournament fast approaching the Badgers will be looking to play their best hockey in the second half of the season as they hope to repeat last year’s performance as national champions.-Mike Ackersteinlast_img read more