JEFF SCHODFHEIDE/Herald photoAs the Badgers opened the season in Milwaukee two weeks ago, no one honestly could have seen this coming from Taylor Walsh.In fact, as the University of Wisconsin (4-1) faced off against UW-Milwaukee, Walsh was forced to watch from the sideline, helpless as her team lost 3-0.Now, Walsh is playing as well offensively as anyone in the Big Ten. Over the weekend, she earned tournament MVP honors at the Hoosier Classic, scoring once against Cal Poly and recording her first career hat trick in Wisconsin’s 7-1 victory over Vermont.“So far the season has been pretty exciting,” Walsh said. “All that is really nice and it feels like a lot of hard work paying off. At the same time, none of that would have happened if my team hadn’t done so well.”Walsh has scored at least one goal in each of the Badgers’ last four games. With six goals and 13 points, she shares the conference lead for goals as well as goals per game average, points per game, points in a single game and goals in a single game.The Badgers are enjoying a streak of their own, having won four straight games after losing the opener to the Panthers.“Taylor’s success is the team’s success,” head coach Paula Wilkins said. “I think when she gets acknowledged, you have to give her credit for what she’s done. But it also acknowledges the team nationally. I think that’s something good for the program, and she’s doing her part to put the name of the program in front of people.”Walsh has been aided in her efforts by freshman Laurie Nosbusch, who has added three goals of her own to go along with three assists.“I couldn’t have done this without playing with Laurie up top,” Walsh said. “Laurie creates so many chances for me. I’m just lucky to get to be on the end of it and end up getting a lot of credit for it.”Walsh’s performance thus far has been as good as the Badgers have seen in years. With six goals in five team games, she already has passed her own team-high of four goals a year ago and matched her team-high from the 2006 season.In addition, her seven-point performance against Vermont tied a UW record. At her current pace, Walsh has a chance to also set a new school record for goals in a season, and she’s opening a few eyes along the way.“Taylor is a phenomenal player and no defense can really stop her,” senior goalkeeper Jamie Klages said. “The teams we play are going to get a little bit better, but I absolutely think she could keep up this pace.”Although it would be tough to pinpoint the exact reason for Walsh’s offensive outburst, a change in her offseason preparation may have been the key. Over the summer, Walsh traveled to Madison, N.J., to play with the Jersey Sky Blue of the United Soccer Leagues W-League.“This is the first year that she went away for the summer and played in a different environment,” Wilkins said. “I think that environment and her willingness to get outside her comfort zone has helped her to be a better player right now for the team, and I think that has really made her grow as a person and as a player.”As a member of the Sky Blue, Walsh netted two goals and one assist. The two goals for Walsh came on consecutive nights, and both were eventual game-winners.Not only was Walsh named offensive MVP of the Hoosier Classic, but she was also honored as the Big Ten offensive player of the week. The honor is the first weekly award of Walsh’s career, and she became the first Badger to earn the honor since 2006.Despite her current success and accolades received from teammates and coaches, Walsh is careful not to let it interfere with her play. She understands how early the season still is and remains focused on the remainder of the schedule.“It feels really nice, but I don’t want to get that excited about it because it’s still so early,” Walsh said. “If it’s all still true at the end of the season that’s one thing, but it’s just too early right now. Our team’s been playing really well, and I’ve just benefited from the way they’ve been playing.”
STATEMENT FROM BARRY ALVAREZ:A variety of allegations, made anonymously to the Badger Herald by several members of the UW women’s tennis team, were published by the Badger Herald last week on May 4. The allegations asserted that head coach Brian Fleishman’s “actions have put the players’ health at risk” and that Fleishman’s “strict limitations on what they eat and how they train has forced several girls to surrender to unhealthy lifestyles.” The allegations also assert that Fleishman himself “has issues with food” and that he has “inflicted serious physical and mental damage” on members of the team. Further, the allegations state that “certain players have battled with anorexia because of Fleishman’s constant focus on their diets.”No UW athletics administrator had been made aware of these issues prior to last week. Nonetheless, when we were made aware of them, we took them very seriously and immediately began to look into the allegations. Members of our senior staff met individually with each of the women’s tennis student-athletes to give them an opportunity to share their perspectives on their experience with the program and to provide us with background or additional information relating to the allegations against Coach Fleishman that appeared in the Badger Herald.The results of those individual meetings did not verify the seriousness of the allegations made to the Badger Herald. Based on that finding, Coach Fleishman has my support going forward.Every one of our head coaches goes through an annual evaluation and review. That process is currently underway for many of our spring sports coaches, including Coach Fleishman. It is unrealistic to think that any of our coaches would come through an evaluation without an identification of areas they can work on to continue to improve their respective programs. I’m sure Coach Fleishman will be no different. But I am confident that Coach Fleishman’s actions do not match up with the allegations that were anonymously made public last week.