In the first tennis match to ever be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network, the No. 34 Wisconsin men’s team could not secure a victory against No. 11 Illinois, losing 4-3.In its conference season opener, Wisconsin (10-5, 0-1) seemed to be on its way to an impressive win after claiming the doubles point and winning four first sets in singles.From there, however, the Badgers lost momentum and allowed the Illini to sneak right past them.Head coach Greg Van Emburgh expressed extreme displeasure with how his team finished the game after positioning themselves so favorably to win.“I’m just really disappointed,” he said. “We didn’t close out matches — just an unfortunate day. Hats off to [the Illini], they had a good match and they found ways to dig a little deeper today in the third sets and get the wins.”After again making it a point to cultivate the doubles teams in practice all week, Van Emburgh was impressed with his team’s performance in that regard.Junior Marek Michalicka and senior Moritz Baumann reunited to take on No. 68 Marek Czerwinski and Stephen Hoh in doubles. The Badger duo, ranked No. 11, marched through the game of fastballs and precise placement to win 8-4.On the neighborly court, seniors Luke Rassow-Kantor and Michael Dierberger traded blow after blow with Illinois’ Abe Souza and Connor Roth. In a game of smart, advantageous play, neither pair separated themselves by more than one point from their opponent. Down 7-6 against the Illini, Rassow-Kantor and Dierberger were able to rally by winning two consecutive sets to clinch the doubles point.“I thought they (Rassow-Kantor, Dierberger) played great in doubles,” Van Emburgh said. “Illinois is good in their doubles and they actually favor that point. We came out and played really well and we won that point today — I thought we did a great job in doubles.”Momentum didn’t fade during the short break between singles and doubles as four Badgers won their opening sets. Ranked No. 11 for a reason, however, Illinois was able to force an extra set in three of those matches. One of the quicker singles matches saw Michalicka stretch his singles winning streak to 11 consecutive.Michalicka showed tremendous hustle as he turned away Illinois’ top ranked player, No. 36 Dennis Nevolo in two sets, 6-2, 7-5.“I think that was probably the best match I have played all season,” Michalicka said. “I couldn’t even believe how I played.”Meanwhile, freshman Billy Bertha and Dierberger dropped their three-set matches while Rassow-Kantor was ousted in two.With Illinois in need of one more singles victory to secure the win, the weight of the match fell on the shoulders of Baumann and sophomore Patrick Pohlmann at the No. 2 and 3 positions.Baumann struggled to find rhythm against Illinois’ Marek Czerwinski. After Baumann prevailed in the first set, the two hardly allowed the other to score two times in a row until Czerwinski topped out and won the tiebreaker to force a third set. Baumann never recovered, losing the third 6-3.With the match already decided, Pohlmann remained intent on upsetting No. 77 Abe Souza.Driven to a third set tiebreaker, Pohlmann repeatedly made his emotions audible as spectators and teammates continued to cheer him on. Feeding off the noise, Pohlmann was able to outlast a small comeback from Souza and close up the win.“I was up two match points, I was kind of disappointed that I didn’t really close it,” he said. “But then at the end I found a way to tie six-all and then in the tiebreaker, it’s almost like a lottery, and in the end I was the more lucky guy.”Pohlmann gave credit for his win to the fact that he put his confidence on display for his opponent. Though he stated he was unable to watch the other matches, he suggested that perhaps a lack of exhibiting confidence may have been a factor in the team’s losing three out of four three-set matches.When asked if the loss would harm team confidence in later matches, Pohlmann was quick to reject the idea.“No, definitely not,” he said. “They’re a top-15 team, so we knew that it was going to be a tough match.”In the meantime, though, the team understands there still remains more to be built on in order to beat highly ranked teams like Illinois.“We need to get back to work,” Van Emburgh said. “We’ve got to, obviously, learn from this match and then put this match aside. We need to work, work it hard and keep believing in our team. We have a great team, and Illinois is a great team and they found ways to win today. That’s really the difference, so slight.”
The University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team has gotten out of a recent scoring slump, thanks to strong play from its substitutes up front.Two of the consistent substitutes for the Badgers are senior captain Jacob Brindle and freshman Chris Mueller. Brindle has seen playing time to give rest to forwards Mark Segbers and Tom Barlow, while Mueller generally comes into the midfield to add speed on the outside.Mueller has been getting solid minutes from Wisconsin head coach John Trask, which he has put to good use recently to help the team.“[Mueller’s] been working hard on his defense,” Trask said. “He offers some great things attacking-wise, he can unbalance the other team off the dribble. He’s maturing as quickly as these other guys.”Mueller’s speed has been a valuable asset against tired defenders, as he can create opportunities from the edge for his fellow freshmen forwards.Mueller played 64 minutes on the road against an experienced Michigan State team, along with consistent playing time in their other recent games. In Wednesday’s overtime game against Loyola-Chicago, Mueller played 87 minutes out of the possible 110 minutes.However, Trask is waiting for Mueller to be ready to play for the full 90 minutes, and Mueller is quietly putting in the extra time to get better which could help him see the field for the whole game.“I’m right there,” Mueller said. “I’m putting in some extra work off the field, so I’ll get there.”With each practice, Mueller builds chemistry with the other forwards, which he will be able to translate to games soon.Mueller’s determination to improve could be what pushes him to more time on the field to help the team with important minutes off the bench.“I’ve been working hard in training with these guys,” Mueller said. “It’s just coming more naturally. We’re improving every day, and if that’s what is going to help the team, I’ll take it.”Another piece on the attacking end is Brindle, who has been coming off the bench to help the Badgers late in their games.The challenge with substitutes is that none of them know how many minutes they will play on a given day, so they consistently have to be prepared.“We never know when it’s going to be, but when we do get in the game, we try to lift the team,” Brindle said.Brindle and Mueller bring fresh legs on the field to run and wear down the opposing defense, which has been on the field the entire game.The substitutes also play a role in keeping both Segbers and Barlow, who lead the team with 12 and 11 points, respectively, fresh and energized to play to the end of the game.Trask sees Brindle’s contributions as vital late in the game. Brindle is a finisher in the box, which Trask wants to use late in games. After the Badgers’ recent performances, Trask may move Brindle into the starting lineup.“Jacob [Brindle] is coming in off the bench right now,” Trask said. “We may change that up, but we are not quite sure if we’ll make a change up front. Some of the other guys are continuing to get better and stronger.”With Brindle and Mueller coming off the bench, Wisconsin’s attack is becoming stronger, which has shown through the scoring over the past four games.Given the time to play in game situations with each other, all five of the potential attacking players have a better understanding of what each of them likes.“[We] all play differently though. Mark [Segbers] likes the ball in space because he’s quicker,” Brindle said. “Tom [Barlow] and I work together well because we both track to the ball, so we can work off of each other that way.”Even though they have lost two of those four games, the Badgers have scored a goal in each of them, something they were not able to do consistently in their previous eight games.In their game Wednesday, Trask played freshman Tyler Yanisch to see what he could do as an outside midfielder, giving the Badgers another change of pace player and fresh legs to wear down their opponent.Trask is using this time to evaluate his young players outside of practices, to see what they can contribute to the team as substitutions.By evaluating all of the talent on the roster in game situations, Trask hopes he can find pieces of the puzzle to possibly turn the season around.The Badgers have been close in their past eight games, which means a small switch in the lineup could be the deciding factor in any of the upcoming games. Trask could very well look to a key substitute as the deciding factor.