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Big Ten hopes up for grabs against Buckeyes

first_imgIn a game that could define how the rest of the season plays out for the Badgers, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team hosts Ohio State at the McClimon Complex Sunday in a battle between two teams at the top of the standings.Both the Badgers (8-6-2) and Buckeyes (8-5-2) currently boast records of 3-1 in Big Ten play, leaving them tied for second place behind Northwestern, who currently leads the Big Ten at 3-0-1 respectively.Ohio State, a team that got the best of the Badgers last year in a hard fought 1-0 loss, has suffered from inconsistency this season, especially when it comes to goal scoring. The Buckeyes have been unstoppable at times, having scored at least three goals in four of their games so far, a high tally in a conference that is known for having low-scoring, physical matches often decided by a single goal.“Ohio State beat us one-nothing in a very close game last year at their place,” head coach John Trask said. “They are definitely in the upper echelon of teams in the Big Ten, and we’re looking forward to a great home crowd and a great game, great atmosphere on Sunday afternoon.”Still, their high scoring games tend to be followed by stretches of goal scoring drought that have resulted in the Buckeyes being shut out by their opponent four times as well.Meanwhile, the Badgers have struggled with similar problems this season.On the season, the Badgers have been outshot by their opponents 217-160, and they were outshot by a whopping 10-3 margin against Northwestern last weekend, a statistic that doesn’t lend itself well to winning games.“Northwestern doesn’t give up many opportunities,” Trask said. “We had a couple good looks at goal. It would have been nice to get a few more. We have confidence we can score goals. I think the players will take it upon themselves to put themselves, hopefully, in positions to reward themselves. That’s the big part of it.”The Badgers should benefit from a Buckeye defense that has allowed an average of 1.5 goals per game in Big Ten play, the second worst average in the conference behind only Michigan.“We are going into that game with the frame of mind that it’s our game to win, and we just know it’s going to be a good game,” senior Josh Thiermann said. “The team that shows up on game day is the team that will get the victory.”Coming off of a 1-0 overtime victory against Penn State, Ohio State seems to be heating up toward the end of the season as they have only lost one time in their last five games and have been carried by junior forward Chris Hegngi, who has scored three of the Buckeyes’ last six goals.Hegngi leads the team with eight goals this season and was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week in September after scoring the game winning goal against Michigan in their conference opener. At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, Hegngi has the potential to pose matchup issues for a Badger defense that doesn’t have a lot of size this year.“Every Big Ten team we play against is going to have players who score their goals,” Thiermann said. “We have [Tomislav] Zadro and even a couple other guys who can score goals for us. Are we worried about it? No, I don’t think we are worried about anybody really.“At the same time, we need to treat every team with respect … every team has a good player, the key is to just deal with that player on the day [of the game].”After two disappointing shutout losses to Northwestern and Green Bay last week, the Badgers bounced back Wednesday with a 2-0 victory over in-state rival UW-Milwaukee in the last non-conference game of the season.The victory could prove to be an important one for the Badgers as they look to get back on track and finish out the Big Ten season.“My feeling is that [the Big Ten] is still wide open,” Trask said. “I don’t know the last time that 5-1-0 won the Big Ten or 5-0-1 won the Big Ten. So at 3-1-0, we’re still right in the hunt, and we’re going to keep pushing forward and hopefully get that result against the Buckeyes.”last_img read more