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Badgers split road series in Michigan as Big Ten play heats up

After a tough loss 2-0 to the Michigan Wolverines (2-2 Big Ten, 6-5 overall) on the road Thursday, the Wisconsin Badgers (2-1-1, 8-2-1) bounced back with an exciting 2-1 against the Michigan State Spartans (0-2-2, 5-3-3) on Sunday.

After going down 1-0 in the 74th minute of the game thanks to goal by Spartan freshman forward Camryn Evans, the Badgers assembled an efficient rally and scored two goals within the next three minutes.

Sophomore midfielder Maia Cella laid the ball back to senior forward Emily Borgmann who curled the ball into the back of the net to start the comeback almost one minute later.

UW was then awarded a penalty a mere 90 seconds later. Junior defender Payton Wesley confidently stepped up and scored from the spot to give Wisconsin the lead with her first goal of the season.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the United Soccer Coaches’ Poll, the Badgers are looking to finish the rest of the season strong. Led by head coach Paula Wilkins, the long-tenured and successful coach looks to bring the Badgers back to the NCAA Tournament for the third-straight year and make a run past the second round this year.

The Badger attack runs primarily through sophomore forward Lauren Rice, sophomore forward Cammie Murtha and junior forward Dani Rhodes, who earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week awards for scoring a goal in each of the Badgers opening intra-conference games against Northwestern and Illinois.

Rice has been lethal up front, scoring a team-leading four goals and leading the team in shots and shots on goal. Murtha has been a key provider for the Badgers, registering four assists on the season along with two goals.

Borgmann has been a spark plug off the bench, providing three goals including the important equalizer against the Spartans this Sunday.

Alexis Tye, a redshirt senior who has started an impressive 55 consecutive games for the Badgers, captains the Wisconsin midfield. She is joined by Maia Cella, who played in all 22 games last year despite being a true freshman. Cella has done well in her starting role, already tallying a goal and three assists just past the midway point of the season.

Wisconsin’s backline has been steady with Wesley and junior defenders Grace Douglas, Camryn Biegalski and Claire Shea anchoring the defense. Junior goalkeeper Jordyn Bloomer has done well in her first year starting, and the Badger defense has posted three clean sheets and given up an average of one goal per game.

The Badgers had a strong start to the season in inter-conference play, going 6-1 with their only loss a 3-0 defeat to No. 7 Florida State. However, Big Ten play started with a bit of a lull, with the Badgers recording one in the win, draw and loss category over the first three games.

After an exciting comeback in East Lansing, the Badgers now look poised to make a run for the top of the Big Ten table. UW is currently tied for second place in the conference with Rutgers and Minnesota while Minnesota tops the table.

The Badgers have seven more regular season games against Big Ten opposition, including games against all three of these teams, with a big home game against Rutgers this coming Thursday.

This should be a good litmus test in what looks to be an exciting finish to the season filled both with challenges and the potential to rise to the top of the Big Ten standings.

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