GREGORY DIXON/Herald photoCaptains of the UW women’s soccer team, seniors Ann Eshun and Katy Meuer, have contrasting styles. However, they each use their own personal strengths and leadership styles to work together in keeping the Badgers focused and competitive.”They are different kinds of leaders, and I think that is why they are successful as our captains,” junior forward Taylor Walsh said. “Ann is very levelheaded and thinks very objectively, so she voices her opinion in that way. Katy is the kind of leader that leads by example and works very hard day in and day out.”One thing the two do have in common is that they are both Madison natives. As a result, they often use their knowledge of Madison and UW history to help motivate their teammates.”They grew up here, and they know everything about the town,” junior forward Tricia Krombach said. “[Their knowledge] gives us a lot of tradition and pride within our team that we want to keep alive.”Although the team has struggled at times with its consistency, Eshun and Meuer have kept the Badgers moving in the right direction and have impressed head coach Paula Wilkins.”Ann and Katy have been great leaders,” Wilkins said. “Ann is very thoughtful with her leadership and obviously cares a lot. Katy is a little more fiery, and her passion comes out in her play. They have a great balance between the two of them because they are completely different in their styles.”Contributing to Meuer’s strength as a team leader has been her dedication to offseason conditioning. Meuer has the ability to motivate her teammates to keep up with what they need to do even when the team isn’t in season.”Katy, in the summers, has always pushed us to keep working out all summer and keep running,” Walsh said. “It is really important to her, and she is really good at making us all do it.”One of Eshun’s strengths has been her on-field communication with her teammates — especially as a defender. She does an excellent job of positioning the offensive players and making sure they are where they need to be.”Ann has really helped me with everything on the field,” Walsh said. “She has been my defender — when I have been playing up top — since we were 15 or 16 years old. She has always been the one telling me where to go and what to do, and she has helped me in that way.”Off the field, Eshun and Meuer are very close. They have known each other through soccer since they were young and have developed a strong, close relationship over the last four years.”We are roommates, so we are very close,” Eshun said. “We knew each other before college, but we have grown so much closer here. We spend almost every day together. Katy’s friendship is very special to me.”Meuer also notes that Eshun has helped her throughout their four years at Wisconsin, as they have grown closer.”Ann is a great friend and teammate,” Meuer said. “She has been there for me through everything on and off the field. I have a lot of respect for her.”In addition to growing close to each other, Eshun and Meuer have developed strong relationships with the other players on the team and the coaches throughout their time at Wisconsin.”The best part [of being a Badger] is the whole experience and the community,” Meuer said. “I love the players, the coaches, the team and the road trips — everything about it.””[I’m going to miss] the team and the relationships,” Eshun added. “These girls are probably the best friends that I have made.”The duo shared another special moment Sunday afternoon at the McClimon Soccer Complex. It was senior day for Wisconsin and marked the last time the two would play together for the cardinal and white.For Meuer, the loss was disappointing, as the moment made it all too clear that her time as a Badger was drawing to a close.”It is tough to lose the last game at home. I hope the others will learn from it and not have to go through this,” Meuer said. “I am definitely going to miss getting out on the field everyday and playing soccer with these girls.”While the reality of the situation set in for Meuer as the game ended, it was still a hard thing for Eshun to believe and accept.”It is kind of surreal,” Eshun said. “It is hard to believe that this is going to be my last time [playing] here. It doesn’t really feel like it yet. It’s sad, but it has been a great ride.”
If history somehow repeats itself, then spectators at the Galen Center Thursday night for the USC-Arizona matchup could wind up being in the arena much longer than the average two-hour duration of a college basketball game. USC and Arizona split their regular season series against one another in the 2016 season. Their first matchup turned out to be an instant classic. In a thriller that saw the Trojans and Wildcats battle through four overtime periods, USC came away with an exhausting 103-101 victory over then-No. 7 ranked Arizona at the Galen Center. When USC traveled to Arizona later that season, the Trojans fell by a score of 86-78. Now looking to this season, No. 14 Arizona (16-2) has gotten off to a strong start in conference play, winning its first five Pac-12 matchups by an average victory margin of 15 PPG. The Wildcats are currently tied for first in the Pac-12 standings with No. 11 Oregon with a 5-0 conference record. When Arizona enters the Galen Center on Thursday night, it will be a team which has won 10 consecutive games as it takes on the Trojans. The Wildcats’ only two losses on the season came to top-15 ranked opponents in No. 4 Gonzaga and No. 13 Butler.After stumbling to a 2-3 start in Pac-12 play this season, USC (16-3, 3-3 in conference) picked up a much-needed conference victory over Colorado Jan. 15. Sophomore forward Chimezie Metu scored a career-high 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting Sunday as the Trojans topped the Buffaloes on the road, 71-68. Metu scored 20 of his 24 points against Colorado in the first half of the game. In total, Arizona has five players averaging at least 10 PPG entering Thursday’s game against USC, including freshman forward Lauri Markkanen. Averaging a team-high 16.7 PPG, Markkanen has been an offensive spark for the Wildcats in his first season. USC’s contest with Arizona on Thursday will be the second occasion in which the Trojans play a top-25 ranked opponent this season. The team lost its only other game against a ranked opponent this season on Dec. 30 when it fell to Oregon on the road, 84-61. The Wildcats will contest Trojan scorers with a stingy defense that ranks 12th nationally in points allowed per game (61.6 PPG). The Galen Center has been a solid home for USC thus far, earning the Trojans a 9-1 overall record when playing in their home arena this season.As a result of losing three of its last five games, USC is now unranked for the first time since Dec. 15. With a 3-3 record through the first six games of conference play, the Trojans currently find themselves in sixth place in the Pac-12 standings. A win over the No. 14-ranked Wildcats Thursday could propel USC back into the NCAA top 25 rankings and would help USC’s cause for a high finish in the final Pac-12 standings this season. Meanwhile, a loss to Arizona would put the Trojans at sub-.500 in conference play and drop them to the lower-half of the Pac-12 standings.