|School – Wisconsin|
|Conference – Big Ten|
|Coach – John Trask (7th Season)|
Background – A relatively young Wisconsin team was 5-11-3 overall with a 2-3-3 mark in conference play in 2015. The Badgers notched Big Ten wins last year over Rutgers and Northwesten and recorded ties with Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State.
John Trask became the Badger head coach in 2010. He has twice directed the program to ten or more win seasons including a banner 2013 campaign that featured a total of fourteen wins and an invite to the NCAA Tourney for the first time since Wisconsin won the national champship in 1995.
The Badgers have experienced a learning curve over the past two seasons with three wins in 2014 followed by five wins in 2015. Last year with the exception of a couple of contests, Wisconsin played everyone close which bodes well for the future of a program that seeks to compete annually on the highest level.
Defender Sam Brotherton was named to the 2015 Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
Offense – Players who scored sixteen of the nineteen goals the Badgers put into the back of the frame in 2015 are slated to return in 2016.
Center midfielder Drew Conner (1g, 3a), who was a four-year starter and team leader, is the key loss on the offensive side of the ball. Conner signed an MLS Homegrown Player contract with the Chicago Fire. The energy, leadership, and pace that he brought to the brought to the pitch was a big plus and leaves a void which others will have to fill.
Junior forward Christopher Mueller (5g, 3a) who was Wisconsin's leading goal scorer last year returns to power the attack up-top. He will be capably joined by junior forward Tommy Barlow (3g, 3a) who has been a starter for the past two seasons. Barlow has eight career goals and six career assists and has appeared in every contest for the Badgers since arriving on campus.
Redshirt junior Nick Jones (1g, 0a) is a highly regarded player whose playing time was limited last year to participation in twelve contests due to injury. He is now healthy and should add an additional dimension to the offense up-top. Redshirt sophomore Nikola Atlija who saw limited action last year is among other returning forwards who will vie for additional minutes in 2016. Freshman Blake Carr is among the newcomers who has the potential to add to the attack and could push for playing time.
Junior Mike Catalano (3g, 1a) who was a starter the last two seasons, red shirt sophomore Enda O'Neill, and veteran senior Brian Hall are among returning midfielders who will be counted upon to contribute in the center of the park. Both Catalano and O'Neill sustained injuries last year that limited their playing time but both appear to healthy and ready to go in 2016.
Junior midfielder Mark Segbers (3g, 4a) who has two-years of starting experience under his belt will be among those who should add additional firepower to the offense. Red shirt sophomore midfielder Isaac Schlenker (1g, 1a) who now has the benefit of appearing in fourteen contests last year also figures to be in the mix.
The recruiting class also includes several very promising midfielders who will likely compete for playing time and add depth right from the start.
The bottom line is that the Badgers face the very real challenge of improving their productivity on the offensive side of the ball in 2016. The experience that several very capable returning players have gained over the past two seasons and the addition of several promising newcomers provide reason for cautious optimism in regard to offensive productivity in 2016.
Defense – The Badgers allowed opponents to score a total of thirty goals last year. As a result opportunity for improvement exists on the defensive side of the ball in 2016.
Losses due to graduation include backs Adam Lauko (1g, 0a) who was a two-year starter and Carl Schneider who was a three-year starter.
Key returning backs include sophomore Sam Brotherton who had an outstadning freshman campaign, junior Alex Masbruch (0g, 1a) and senior Matej Radonic. All three are experienced defenders who provide a solid necleus upon which to build the backline. Red shirt freshman back Elan Koenig who had an impressive spring season also figures to play a prominent role in 2016.
Sophomore Conor Maki who is a transfer from Xavier and freshman Sam Kornetzke who participated in the spring season are among the newcomers who should compete for minutes in the back.
Red shirt senior Casey Beyers who has started twenty-two contests over the past three seasons and junior Adrian Remeniuk who has twenty-five starts over the past two years return to give the Badgers two experienced goalkeepers.
Newcomers – Three and a Half Star Recruiting Class
Coach Trask stated, "We are very excited about our 2016 Signing Class that includes seven future Badgers ready to join the team for the fall and two who have already begun with our program. The infux of new talent and the return of most of our starting unit from last season will allow for great competition within our squad."
Blake Carr – Forward – Pewaukee, Wisconsin – Arrowhead High School – Tallied firty-four goals and fourteen assists his senior season in high school. Named Classic 8 Player of the Year. Co-State Player of the Year. Plays club for FC Wisconsin.
Alejandro Estrelles Hernanz – Midfielder – Barcelona, Spain – Cushing Academy – Played club for RCD Espanyol U-9, CE Vilassar, and the FC Stars. Named to NEPSSA All-Star Team.
Mitch Guitar – Midfielder – Royal Oak, Michigan – Troy High School – Played for Vardar Soccer Club for seven seasons. All-League. All-District. All-Region. All-State as a freshman. Played for Vardar from his sophomore through senior seasons.
Nick Klabjan – Midfielder – Royal Oak, Michigan – Deerfield High School – Played club for the Chicago Wind Soccer Club and the Chicago Magic PSG. All-State selection.
Sam Kornetzke – Defender – Cedarburg, Wisconsin – Cedarburg High School – Played for North Shore United Soccer Club and Wisconsin Fire. Four-year varsity starter in high school. All-Conference. All-Area. Second-Team WSCA All-State. Played with Region II team.
Noah Leibold – Midfielder – Wiesbaden, Germany – Mainz Academy – Played for SV Wehen Wiesbaden, FSV Mainz, and the Development Academy Wiesbaden. All-State selection.
Connor Maki – Defender – Naples, Florida – IMG Academy – Transfer from Xavier University. Prior to IMG Academy he played for the New York Red Bulls USDA team. Left-footed defender.
Dominick Mesdjian – Midfielder – Madison, Wisconsin – James Madison Memorial High School – Played for the Madison 56ers soccer club from U-11 thorugh U-18. Played for Wisconsin Fire U-16 and U-18. NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region. First Team All-Conference. All-Area. All-State Honorable Mention.
Jack Shaw – Midfielder – Milwaukee, Wisconsin – Marquette University High School – A five-year starter for the Chicago Fire Academy.
Prognosis for 2016 – Eight starters return from the 2015 team. Wisconsin will be a much more experienced and deep team in 2016 than they were the two prior seasons which is a big plus.
The Badgers played well at times in 2015 but they were hampered at times by a lack of consistency and perhaps intensity. The fact that they were a relatively young team with a lot of sophomores in key roles and that they experienced several key injuries likely contributed to that.
Wisconsin's ability to put together a full ninty minutes of play in every contest and to find a way to not let winnable games get away from them as they did at times last year will likely have a big impact on their productivity in 2016.
John Trask is a competitor who knows what it takes to win at the highest level. All things considered, the posibility for an increase in the number of wins in 2016 looks pretty good based on the fact that a solid core of players return with an additional year of experience under their belts supplemented by a talented recruiting class with the potential to contribute immediately.
A return to a double digit win season and movement upward in the highly competitve Big Ten Conference race will not be easy but is not out of the question. However, it will not occur without an increase in productivity on the offensive side of the ball and improvement on the defensive side of the ball.