After a tiring but successful 10-day road trip that saw the Wisconsin softball team play 11 games, the Badgers took a couple well-deserved days off early this week before gearing up to face Northwestern in the Big Ten opener next weekend.After opening the trip with losses to nationally ranked Stanford and BYU as well as to Pacific, the Badgers won six of the last seven games, including their final five. Keying the win streak was sound defensive play by the Badger infield. Head coach Chandelle Schulte made particular mention of junior Athena Vasquez as the main catalyst of the improved defensive effort. “Third base had been a position where we were having some problems with errors,” Schulte explained. “We moved [Vasquez] to third base and got very good defense out of her, which was a huge help.”The improved defense has done more than simply lower the number in the error column of the box score. Schulte credits the defense with helping the overall performance of her pitchers.”When the defense behind a pitcher is not making errors, it gives the pitcher a lot more confidence,” Schulte said.Schulte also mentioned that after an early season, which saw the Badgers use 11 different starting lineups, the coaching staff has settled on a lineup that it likes and that has produced results.”Everyone has been contributing, but you never know who is going to come through each day,” Schulte said. “Every day it is someone different who helps carry the team, which is good. I like it better than relying on one player to come through every game.” The Badgers were afforded the chance to play both Utah State and Miami (Ohio) multiple times during the trip, giving the team a taste of what Big Ten action will be like. During conference play, teams play each other in two-game series.”The second time playing those teams, we played much better, and the players gained a ton of confidence,” Schulte noted.While the benefits of playing so many games cannot be overstated for such a young and inexperienced team, there are some minor drawbacks to all the play.”After all that game action, we really physically and mentally needed some time off,” Schulte said. “We have some minor injuries, but mostly just sore muscles from overuse that will be better with some time off.”Besides the game experience and confidence the Badgers gained during the trip, this particular Badger team has something Schulte sees as equally important.”In my 12 years coaching, this team has the best chemistry by far. Off the field, the kids really enjoy each other. We learned a lot about each other during the trip, which will help us work through any tough stretches in the season.”Having found such chemistry and riding a five-game win streak, tough stretches seem like something this Badger team won’t have to worry about for a long time.