Wisconsin, ASU set for 1st round

first_imgThe UW women\’s soccer team will participate in their first NCAA Tournament game under Paula Wilkins.[/media-credit]Wisconsin women’s soccer head coach Paula Wilkins had a tough question to answer this week. How do you prepare a team of 27 players for the NCAA Tournament when not one of them has ever been to the postseason?Though Wilkins earned an NCAA bid in each of her six years as head coach at Penn State, she enlisted the help of another Wisconsin head coach with plenty of postseason experience: men’s basketball head coach Bo Ryan.“I said, ‘Hey do you know what it’s like to be in the NCAA Tournament?’” Ryan said. “Then I go, ‘How many of you here played in the state tournament for soccer?’ Eighty or 90 percent of them raised their hand. It’s the same thing, win and advance.”For Wisconsin goaltender Michele Dalton, one thing stood out in Ryan’s talk.“He said, ‘How many games to a national championship?’ and Paula said six,” Dalton said of Ryan. “So he looked around at all of us and said, ‘six games and you’ll be national champions. It really kind of puts it in perspective.”After leading his team to the NCAA Tournament in each of his eight seasons as head coach and recording the five winningest seasons in UW history, Ryan’s record speaks for itself.So, when he took some time out of his schedule to talk to one of the school’s rising programs, the players were happy to see him.“The players saw me and I just thought there was somebody behind me when they just started waving and (saying) ‘hey come on over here,’” Ryan said. “(I thought) ‘are you talking to me?’”Friday night, the Badgers will host the Arizona State University Sun Devils at 7:30 p.m. at the McClimon Soccer Complex in a first-round matchup of the NCAA Tournament. It is the 15th appearance in Wisconsin history and the first time it has reached the tournament since 2005. UW is 11-14 all-time in NCAA Tournament games.Wisconsin enters the tournament riding a seven-game unbeaten streak, with their last loss having come more than a month ago at Minnesota.While it is not the only reason, much of the Badgers’ recent success has been thanks to the return of freshman forward Paige Adams from an early-season injury. Adams played one-half against Minnesota and has been a big factor in the UW offense since.“I think it has had a huge impact,” sophomore forward Laurie Nosbusch said. “She’s scored two or three big goals, and she’s such an amazing player. It helps me out a lot as the other forward. She can finish well and she can keep the ball for us up top.”Adams, a freshman from British Columbia, has scored three goals and added three assists in just 11 games, giving her the team’s second-highest point total with nine.One of her expectations when coming to Wisconsin was to reach the NCAA Tournament, but she did not expect to have such a big impact in her first season as a Badger.“It’s really exciting to be a part of it,” Adams said. “I didn’t think I (would) do as well as I have, but I was hoping to do well. It’s been a really great year, except for struggling with injuries.”The Sun Devils (9-7-3, 2-6-1 Pac 10) are in a similar position to UW, having won their final two games of the season to earn their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003. Two inexperienced teams having their first taste of the NCAA Tournament should make for an intriguing first-round matchup.“It’ll be an exciting game,” Wilkins said. “I think it’s going to be the team that sort of figures it out faster — as early as possible — will have a good result. We’re hoping that it’s us.”Unlike ASU, who won a pair of home games over the weekend, Wisconsin will be playing in its first game since Nov. 2, when the Badgers won a road game against the Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston, Ill.The reason behind the long delay is the Big Ten’s decision to eliminate the conference tournament this season. According to Wilkins, the coaches reach a consensus that playing three games in a weekend put the conference at a disadvantage in the NCAA Tournament.“That is a concern of ours,” Wilkins said of the time off. “I think it can be an advantage for us or a disadvantage. We have been able to rest people and get them healthy, which I think is pretty important, so we’ll find out on Friday if there’s any advantage.”Wisconsin is hosting the first and second rounds at the McClimon Soccer Complex, which means they will be playing the second game Friday night. In the early game at 5 p.m., third-seeded Central Florida will take on UW-Milwaukee, with the winners of both games to square off Sunday at 1 p.m.last_img read more