This season can best be described as a daunting roller coaster ride for UW. After starting out the season 3-0, the Badgers ran into bad bounce after bad bounce and saw their overall record drop to 6-8-2 as they fell far out of the national rankings. However, after qualifying for the Big Ten Tournament and dominating their opponents en route to the title, Wisconsin is riding a seven-game winning streak and seems to have all the momentum on its side of the field once again. For head coach Dean Duerst, this season has been one-of-a-kind.
"I've never experienced a season like this in which the ending result was us winning a Big Ten title," Duerst said. "We have had other seasons where we have played a couple overtimes that didn't get the breaks we needed [but] not as many as I have seen us have this year. Now with the turnaround as strong as it was, it just knows that this team is a special group and they proved that. They made history this year with the kind of year they had."
Marquette, which did not appear in the tournament the past two seasons, has had an outstanding year. Led by forwards Christy Zwolski and Lauren Weber, Marquette has won 9 of its first 11 games, including beating defending national champion Notre Dame.
Zwolski and Weber have been constant offensive threats for the Golden Eagles: they are first and second on the team in goals, points and shots. However, the strength of Marquette is its sophomore goalie, Lauren Boyer. The Iowa State transfer has been a force for Marquette, starting every game this season and allowing only 18 goals on the season for an average of .85 goals allowed per game.
Marquette employs a style of play that, according to UW senior captain Amy Vermeulen, is a lot like a Big Ten team and will provide a good opening round challenge for the Badgers.
"They are pretty similar to a Big Ten team," Vermeulen said. "We have played them basically every year except this year and we know what to expect. We know that they are going to be really tough and we're looking forward to that challenge."
Head coach Dean Duerst agreed, stating that Marquette is a balanced team that combines high energy and competes at a high level every game.
"They are a really hard working, energy filled team," Duerst said. "They don't have a ‘[Penn State forward Tiffany] Weimer Superstar' on their team [because] the team is the superstar. They all work for each other very hard. Their coaches motivate them really well and they use their home field for energy with their fans. That's who they are. I think both teams match up really well with each other. There is a lot of respect between our programs, which is a good thing. There is no way you ever overlook any team in your state."
Going into their first and second round match-ups, Wisconsin looks to have an advantage.
If Wisconsin wins their first round game against Marquette, Wisconsin will play the winner of the Purdue-UW-Milwaukee game in the second round. The Badgers shutout both teams during the course of the season, 4-0 against UWM in September and 3-0 against Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament. While Wisconsin did not play Marquette this season, the two teams have met four times in the past four seasons, including a 3-2 Badger win in the first round of the 2002 tournament.
"We're very happy with our draw in the tournament," Vermeulen said. "For one, it's close by so we can actually have fans come over, which is exciting. It's an in-state rival too. So, it's always good to have a big win against them."
Along with Vermeulen, seniors Marissa Brown, Katy Lindenmuth, and Jessica Ring have been cornerstones in the Wisconsin program for the past four seasons. Their play and team chemistry has seen Wisconsin compile 52 wins over the past four seasons. However, they have not been able to get past the second round of the tournament, losing to Pepperdine 2-1 in 2002 and Notre Dame 1-0 last season. This season, however, the extra year of experience and the momentum the Badgers are carrying has them poised for a run at history.
"We have the seniors here that have been in the NCAAs and have experienced those games," Duerst said. "They also want to go further than they ever have gone before. We have won the first round all the time with them and it's that second round game that hurts. This is a team that knows they can play with anybody in the country because of the experience on the field for us. The seniors, in particular, they want to go to the Final Four. If you're in athletics, you want to go to Final Four and that's our destination…They want to make real history and go all the way to the finals."