Rivalry heats up as Wisconsin’s soccer team comes to town

by Anthony Maggio

It might be hard for a team with no postseason hopes to stay motivated for its last three games of the regular season.

But for Minnesota’s soccer team, all that’s needed is one word: Wisconsin.

“It’s a major, major rivalry,” coach Barbara Wickstrand said.

“I hate to lose to them,” senior Keely Dinse said. “And I’m not even from Minnesota.”

The Gophers (6-9-1, 1-8 Big Ten), have not won a game since Sept. 29 and were eliminated from conference tournament play last weekend. But Minnesota isn’t about to take its ball and go home, especially with its arch rival coming to town Friday, followed by Drake on Sunday.

The Gophers and Badgers alternated victories in their last six meetings dating back to 1996, with Minnesota winning last season 2-1 in Madison.

The Badgers (7-7-3, 3-4-2) were swept last weekend by Ohio State and Penn State, the same squads that swept Minnesota.

But with the seventh-best record in the Big Ten and only one conference game left, Wisconsin has secured a spot in the Big Ten tournament. So there will be no playing the spoiler role for the Gophers.

Instead, Minnesota must shed the curse of Kyndra Hesse.

The Gophers senior began her college soccer career at Wisconsin, and as a freshman her Badgers lost to Minnesota 1-0.

Hesse transferred to Minnesota her sophomore season and her Gophers eventually lost to the Badgers 4-2.

After a hiatus last season, Hesse is ready for a border battle victory.

“I’ve been the unlucky card on both ends of this,” Hesse said. “Hopefully this year we’ll pull out the win.”

Hesse does have the advantage of seeing the rivalry from both sides.

“They’re probably saying the exact same stuff we are at practice,” Hesse said. “We’re at practice saying, ‘Bring the red pennies today.’ You want to concentrate on it being red – go hard at anything that’s red. On the other hand, when I was at Wisconsin they said, ‘Bring the maroon pennies.’ “

Despite the Badgers coming to town, Wickstrand has toned down practice a bit and is letting her team focus on having some fun. She said her team is “worn-out.”

Even in a jovial mood, however, Hesse didn’t want to send any trash talk her former team’s way.

“I think I better keep my mouth shut because I don’t want to get hurt and you just never know,” Hesse said, half-jokingly. “The people I know wouldn’t take me out, but they could assign somebody. You always have an enforcer on your team. So no trash talking, I’m going to keep it clean.

“I’m just going to beat them with my skills and not my words.”

Anthony Maggio covers soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]