BRYAN FAUST/Herald PhotoAs they prepare for Wednesday’s 6 p.m. home matchup against University of Illinois-Chicago, the Wisconsin softball team is in dire need of a quick turnaround.It’s been a topsy-turvy season for head coach Chandelle Schulte’s squad, which is 19-19 overall, but just 4-8 in the Big Ten. The team started the season playing some of the best teams in the nation — including current No. 2 Texas, No. 6 Stanford, No. 9 Arizona State and No. 22 Fresno State — but after faltering against the best of the West, the team has done more of the same against teams of all flavors in the Midwest. The Badgers come off this past weekend’s four-game road trip, in which tried-and-true pitcher Eden Brock — a 20-game winner just last season — dropped three out of four to conference foes Indiana and Purdue. Brock had won her previous six decisions before the road trip, the last of which was against UIC the last time the teams played, April 19.This weekend’s losses were particularly painful for the Badgers for a number of reasons. First of all, Indiana and Purdue were ranked eighth and 10th in the Big Ten before the weekend. The Badgers were ranked seventh.What is more, the Badgers fell considerably in the Big Ten standings from that seventh spot down to 10th place. The top eight teams in the conference qualify for the Big Ten tournament.”After the Purdue game we sat down with Coach [Schulte] and she was talking about how we had to focus,” said freshman second baseman Theresa Boruta. “We have seven games left and we really need to focus [if we want to make the Big Ten tournament].”Boruta, who hit the lone home run for the Badgers this weekend, knows that maintaining a high level of concentration is difficult, especially when the team is struggling.”It’s hard to keep yourself motivated when we’re having not the greatest season in the world,” said Boruta. “But we still realize that there is a chance [to make the Big Ten tournament]. And it’s going to be a challenge, but we’re up for it. [We] might as well go balls-out the last seven games. It’s worth it.”The freshman also talked about how Wednesday’s game could do wonders for the team’s morale.”It’s hard coming off [Big Ten losses],” said Boruta. “But non-conference games are a good way — if you’re having trouble or you’re having difficulty — to rebound and come back up with a big win to motivate you. … That’s what we’re looking for [Wednesday].”Assistant coach Martha McCall agreed that the game against the Flames is important in that the Badgers do need to work on certain things in a game situation. She talked about finally putting together, in one game, the three-pronged combination of hitting, pitching, and defense. She thinks that the Badgers have a good chance to do that on Wednesday against UIC.With six of the remaining seven games for the cardinal-and-white against conference rivals, though, she is excited to have a little fun with this one.”[Wednesday’s game] should be a good little tune-up for us,” said McCall. “It should be fun. It’s Athletic Department Day out here so we should have a lot of fans. We’re just looking to … see what we can do tomorrow to get us on track for the weekend.”When asked about the team’s state of mind heading into Wednesday’s game, McCall said that losing focus is not on the team’s agenda.”Not for us,” said McCall. “Every game is a chance for us to get another win. That’s important.”The Badgers beat the Flames 2-0 in their last meeting in Chicago on April 19. The Flames are 20-27 on the season.
Defenseman Eric Conklin couldn\’t stop the Huskies from ending the Badgers\’ shutout streak last night.[/media-credit]It was a tense and physical game at McClimon Soccer Complex Wednesday night as the UW men’s soccer team played its final home game of the regular season. Although the Badgers literally struck first blood, it was the Northern Illinois Huskies who walked away with the 1-0 win.The game started off quickly with both teams creating multiple threats to score throughout the first half. As the clock ticked, the game became increasingly physical, and in the 17th minute, Wisconsin midfielder Brandon Miller drew the game’s only yellow card. Although it was the game’s lone caution, the match ended with a total of 11 fouls and several injuries.The first major injury occurred when Badger forward Ata Ozbay struck heads with Huskies defenseman Tim King, causing King to bleed substantially. From there the game only became more intense and physical, but the Badgers and head coach Todd Yeagley anticipated the Huskies rough style of play.“Yeah we expected it to be physical,” Yeagley said. “That’s a big part of Northern’s strength is their physical play.”Despite the intense defense that continued throughout the second half, the Huskies finally took advantage of a scoring opportunity late in the game. In the 85th minute, forward Juan Hoyos found the back of the net for the first time of the night, putting the Huskies ahead 1-0 with only five minutes left for the Badgers to respond.“It was one that a better decision on a clearing situation maybe [wouldn’t have] put ourselves in that predicament,” Yeagley said. “The kid did a nice job of putting it away.”Regardless of the physical defensive fight that dominated the game, it was still a disappointing blow for the Badgers to lose in the final minutes of their last regular season home game. The team had hoped to continue its winning streak and end its home season on a good note.“We said before the game that we’d love to have seniors go out on a real positive note for the last regular season home game and play with a lot of pride and have our young guys give a performance they’ll remember,” Yeagley said. “Some days it’s not there, and it was one of those days.”Senior defenseman Eric Conklin expressed similar feelings but knew he and the Badgers fell short of their goal.“Obviously we wanted to come out with a win,” Conklin said. “We put it all on the field. I thought we dominated chances offensively. It’s too bad we couldn’t come away with the [win].”Although the loss was upsetting, Yeagley is not concerned about his team’s ability to rebound from the defeat. He believes his squad underperformed and couldn’t find its stride against NIU.“We just didn’t perform well today,” Yeagley said. “We can’t afford to have that many players tonight not be near their best and that’s what happened. It was a game where we couldn’t find rhythm. I thought we were slow in transition, not sharp offensively and certainly didn’t give them many chances, but I just felt this game was one that we just didn’t bring the game that we had been bringing the last five or six and before that. … I’m not concerned because I know what we still have to play for in this team. We have had too many good things that we can draw upon to regroup for Saturday for a chance to win a Big Ten championship.”Despite suffering a tough loss, the Badgers are now getting ready for Saturday’s game at Penn State and are hopeful to win a Big Ten regular season title.“Once we leave the field here its full-tilt, getting ready for a crucial Big Ten game on Saturday,” Yeagley said. “We’re a confident group. We know Penn State’s strengths and weaknesses and [to] go in and play with confidence, it’s still our game. Tonight I thought we were passive and our team needs to be the aggressor. I’m confident we can do that at Penn State on Saturday.”