After concluding its regular season with three consecutive victories, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team (8-10-0, 2-4-0 Big Ten) is set to take on an intimidating two-time defending national champion No. 2 Indiana squad (11-1-6, 2-1-3) in the first round of the Big Ten tournament today at the Leonard Thomas Athletic Complex in Evanston, Ill.With critical wins in its last two Big Ten matches — a 3-2 triumph over Michigan State and 2-1 defeat over Northwestern last Sunday — Wisconsin snagged the sixth seed in the 2005 Big Ten tournament.”I think it was really important to get a win and end with a series of wins,” Wisconsin head coach Jeff Rohrman said of the last three games. “It definitely helps and gives us a lot of momentum heading into the tournament.”Despite earning only two Big Ten victories in 2005, Indiana seized the third seed for the tournament after tying three out of its six conference matches — against Michigan State, Northwestern and Ohio State. After finishing undefeated in the Big Ten, Penn State grabbed the first seed bye, while Ohio State sneaked ahead of the Hoosiers to take the second seed. While Wisconsin finished its regular season on a three-match win streak, Indiana enters the post-season unbeaten in its last 10 matches with a 7-0-3 record. Throughout that streak, Indiana outscored its opponents 30-8, including 5-0 and 6-0 blowouts over IUPUI and Butler, respectively.Two weeks ago, Indiana head coach Mike Freitag’s squad found themselves down 3-0 to No. 3 Maryland with only 17 minutes remaining in the contest. In a thrilling comeback, the Hoosiers tied the match with the final goal being scored with just five seconds remaining on the clock. To counter this explosive Indiana offense, Rohrman believes his squad will have to put pressure on the Hoosiers’ goal tonight rather than sit back and play defensively.”We have to attack them, we can’t let them control the flow of the game,” Rohrman said. “We’ve been scoring goals and playing well going forward — we certainly haven’t scored the goals we have by sitting back on defense. They’re very quick coming forward, so it will definitely be a battle back there.”In the last match of their regular season, Indiana defeated the top team in the nation with a 1-0 overtime victory over Akron. Scoring the all-important goal for the Hoosiers was senior midfielder Brian Plotkin — the goal was Plotkin’s eighth of the season. Despite his game-winning performance, Plotkin ultimately hurt his team in the long stretch by picking up his fifth yellow card of the season against Akron. As a result of his accumulation of cards, Plotkin will miss tonight’s clash. “Right from the start we’ll have an advantage over the last time we played [Indiana] because Brian Plotkin’s out this time,” Rohrman said. “He got his fifth yellow last week, so his absence will definitely play in our favor.”In the Wisconsin-Indiana matchup earlier this season, Indiana scored three second half goals to win 5-2. After scoring his second goal of the year in that match, Wisconsin redshirt freshman Victor Diaz has scored in each of the remaining games of the season — seven goals in a streak of six matches. Although Diaz leads the team offensively with eight goals, praise must also be given to the fine play of the teammates surrounding him.”[Victor has] done very well the past few weeks,” Rohman said. “While he has established himself as one of our top attacking guys, I think we’ve also got to give some credit to the guys around him — he’s been the recipient of a lot of hard work.”Although Wisconsin has lost the past 12 matches with Indiana and is 0-4 all-time against the Hoosiers in Big Ten tournament play, Rohrman’s squad is optimistic about the matchup and excited for a chance to knock off the two-time defending national champions.”I think it’s going to be a great game,” Diaz said. “If we play at the level we’ve been playing at lately, I think we have a good chance to do well.”The winner of tonight’s match will play in the second semi-final on Friday, Nov. 11 at 2:30 p.m. against the victor of second-seeded Ohio State and seventh-seeded Northwestern.
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