First-year head coach Paula Wilkins and her new-look Badgers made a statement this weekend at the Wisconsin Invitational, culminating with a 1-0 win over Boston University Sunday afternoon.
To the untrained eye, Wisconsin's victory is only a home non-conference victory against a quality. When looking through the magnifying glass, the Badgers win wasn't just a simple victory, it was dominating.
Controlling the offense throughout the first half, the Badgers (2-1-1) out-shot Boston (2-2-0) 10-to-8, were more aggressive to the ball and made the big defensive stop when it was needed.
If it wasn't for Boston goalie Christina Reuter making some clutch saves, the game could have easily been a rout over the Terriers, a team that is hardly a bunch of cupcakes.
Finishing 13-5-3 last season, including 6-1-1 in the challenging America East conference, Boston University hasn't had a losing conference record since 1996. During that same time frame, the Badgers have had just four winning Big Ten seasons. On paper, Boston clearly would have the edge.
That's one of the main reasons you bring in a head coach that has won six consecutive Big Ten titles and 84 percent of her games since 2001 – the attitude changes quickly.
"In every game you play, you want to be able to have the mentality that you can win the game," Wilkins said. "It's important for me that they believe that every game they play, they have a chance to win. I truly think the game of soccer is that way."
As expected, Wilkins' confidence is rubbing off on her new team, a team that hasn't experienced a lot of winning in Madison.
"It's the confidence these games install in the back of your head," junior-transfer Jamie Klages, who earned her first shutout as a Badger, said after the game. "Against Santa Barbara, we were behind twice and came back. We want to be undefeated at home and take pride in making this a tough place to play."
Another reason for the confidence spike is that Wilkins has inherited a pretty solid forward in junior Taylor Walsh.
Walsh was responsible for the lone tally on Sunday, receiving a perfect pass between traffic from defender Whitney Owusu. Walsh, who scored her first goal of the season on Friday, beat every defender in her path, knocking the ball into the left corner of the net for the game winner.
"I definitely have a better weekend when I play at home," Walsh said. "I am used to playing on this field in front of our fans. Something about it made it easier for me and I was more relaxed this weekend to play my game and score."
After being a part of a couple mediocre teams in her first two seasons, Walsh is embracing the new philosophy; a philosophy, and a coach, that expect them to win.
"We're going to come out every single game and do what we can to win," Walsh said. "It's a better mentality. We have nothing to lose, so we might as well give everything we have."
The invitational victory carried even more weight on Sunday, because for the first time in program history, Wisconsin's dominating performance came in front of a national audience.
Thanks to the new Big Ten Network, Wisconsin soccer will make three appearances on the new network, something that's bound to be a valuable asset to the program Wilkins is trying to build.
"[The Big Ten Network is] really important because we'll get a bigger recruiting base," Wilkins said. "When you talk to recruits about Wisconsin, they don't really know how amazing the school and the surrounding town is. We need to get our message out of what kind of players we want here is quite important."
"Paula coming here is a great step for the program and everybody here on the team is working for that next step and getting to that next level," Klages added. "Being on TV and getting that win for Wisconsin is putting us out there for people to come watch."
With the 2007 Badgers being the first team in school history to play and win a game on national television, Wilkins, known for being a master motivator, couldn't resist from using the camera as some extra motivation.
"I told them that their grandchildren can watch this game some day for sure," Wilkins joked.
If Wilkins gets her wish, their grandchildren will, one day, get to watch grandma play for a national title.