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Baylor Soccer

Preview: Wisconsin Welcomed to Waco for Sunday Soccer Game

August 20, 2022

The Bears' 1-1 draw against Minnesota was not the way anyone in the Baylor Soccer program would have wanted to start the Michelle Lenard era. It was a slow start, and if the green and gold had played more than the last fifteen minutes with a dynamic and exciting attack then they probably would have walked away with a win. 

Now it's on to Wisconsin. After being picked 4th in the Big Ten preseason poll, the Badgers played the No. 7 TCU Horned Frogs in Fort Worth on Thursday night, earning a 0-0 draw. That was Wisconsin’s test game. The top-level opponent meant to push the team and show them how good they are. 

Now the Badgers drive down to Waco for the “easier” matchup, the more likely win. This Big Ten squad has been to three Sweet 16s in the last four years and is looking to take that next step. Baylor will be trying to make this leg of their journey as tough as possible. 

How can Baylor do that? Come out confident and attack. Attack like they did for the last fifteen minutes against Minnesota. 

Tactically, Wisconsin will be intriguing. Against TCU they came out in what ESPN+ announcers called a 3-6-1 formation. 

For those relatively new to soccer: formations are listed in line according to the number of players. Defense-Midfield-Forwards. Baylor favored a 4-3-3 last year and against Minnesota. 

So the Badgers like to overload the midfield. But their formation will morph according to the situation. In defense, a 3-6-1 can tend to become more like a 5-4-1, and in attack, it can look more like a 3-4-3.

This is concerning to me in that the Bears midfield seemed to have a little trouble against Minnesota transitioning defensive possession into attacks. With the amount of pressing Wisconsin showed against TCU, Maddie Algya and company can expect to be under fire all day. 

Beyond that, if the Bears can consistently move through the midfield and ask questions of the Badgers’ backline, they will see a solid defense. Two of the three center backs are in their fourth year with the program and the third is sophomore Aidan McConnell (#3), who was named to the Big Ten preseason players to watch list. 

Wisconsin is missing one senior defender through injury, but they acquitted themselves very well holding TCU scoreless.

The other Badgers on the preseason watchlist are attacking midfielders that could cause problems for the “no goal patrol”. Emma Jaskaniec (#2) was the leading scorer for Wisconsin last year, netting nine goals and dishing out four assists. Not to be outdone, Natalie Viggiano (#13) scored eight goals and tallied five assists. 

Claire Odmark (#34) a senior forward for the Badgers could also provide a spark off the bench as last year’s third leading scorer. Overall, Wisconsin looks to press and spring on turnovers from what I’ve seen. They don’t play super direct, but they were not on the front foot enough against TCU to show true possession-style build-up. 

The biggest question mark for the Badgers seems to be in goal, where much like the Bears they are trying to replace a four-year starter. Erin McKinney (#31) got her first collegiate start at TCU and played well making three saves. Is she the answer though?

That situation is very similar to Lauren Traywick’s at Baylor, and perhaps we see Texas Tech transfer Madison Martin get a shot at goalkeeper Sunday for the Bears.

The Bottom Line: Both teams will badly want a win, and the tougher task is Baylor’s. The Bears will need to start confident and start fast to top a Wisconsin program that is used to solid runs into the NCAA tournament. 

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Preview: Wisconsin Welcomed to Waco for Sunday Soccer Game

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