The No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers women’s soccer team fell 1–0 to then No. 1 ranked Stanford just before Thanksgiving. With that, their season was over. They made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, which was one round further than last year, which is certainly something to be proud of.
They also improved their record from 14-6-2 to 14-4-4, which was only a slight improvement, but an improvement nonetheless.
Coach Paula Wilkins was very proud of how her team showed up toward the end of the season.
“We played some very good soccer at the end of the year,” Wilkins said. “We were strong both offensively and defensively. I have talked all year about putting together a complete game together and we finally managed to do that in the first two rounds of the tournament.”
Wisconsin dominated their first two opponents in the NCAA Tournament, Memphis and Hofstra, 3–0 and 6–0. They struggled to score goals all season, which was the most disappointing part of the season, Wilkins said, but their offense came to play come playoff time.
Wilkins also felt very positively about the team’s progress made this season.
“I think our experience finally started to pay off,” Wilkins said. “Last year’s postseason game against South Carolina and playing Florida State early on gave us some real challenges and it prepared us for our tough competition this year.”
There are a couple players in particular that Wilkins was especially impressed by this season, and new goalie Jordyn Bloomer was one in particular.
After former goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem graduated, Wilkins said Bloomer “stepped up” to the task.
“She did everything we could have asked her to do,” Wilkins said.
Usually occupying the midfield, Claire Shea also managed to step up in replacement of defender Sammy Kleedtke.
Kleedtke occupied an important role on a staunch Badger defense. Though she doesn’t often appear in the box score, the sophomore started all 22 games her freshman year in 2017 and played 11 this year before going down with an injury.
“[Shea] did a really good job of bringing in some consistency in the back and on 1-on-1 defending,” Wilkins said. “She was a big difference maker for us.”
Though the 2018 season may be over, this vast majority of this group’s time at Wisconsin is not.
Though she started off slow, Dani Rhodes ended the Badgers’ season on a tear, leading the team in goals with 10. A large sum of those scores came from her four-goal performance in the 6–0 rout over Hofstra during round two of the NCAA Tournament. Rhodes’ performance was the most goals ever for a single game among Badgers and also puts her in a tie for the Big Ten single-game record.
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With Rhodes and other key contributors returning in 2019, Wilkins feels optimistic about the upcoming soccer season.
“I’m excited for next year,” Wilkins said. “We are returning 10 starters and will have even more experience next year. It hurts losing Alexis Tye and Emily Borgmann, but I feel really good about our defensive development and with Dani Rhodes and Cameron Murtha on offense, we should have no problem scoring goals.”
These are promising words for Wisconsin women’s soccer fans who hope to advance even further in the Tournament next fall. With a few exceptions, the team is returning nearly all of their players and will be hungry for success after a heartbreaking 1–0 result to Stanford.
Tune back in next August to watch the Wisconsin women’s soccer team get back after it.