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.
There’s no way a hockey team can keep four goalies happy during practice let alone during the regular season of a junior hockey league season.So the Nelson Leafs coaching staff did its best to solve the problem by sending netminder Josh Bolding and forward Spencer Selby to the Sicamous Eagles in a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League deal Tuesday.The Leafs, in return, receive future considerations.The deal leaves Nelson with three goalies in camp — Devin Allen and Ben Kelsch on the playing roster and Jason Sandhu on the injury list.Bolding, 18, came to Nelson as a late Junior A cut.The 6’5”, 190-pound native of Calgary played two games for Nelson, finishing with a 1-1 record after backstopping the Leafs to a 5-3 win last Friday over Grand Forks.Selby, also 18, played nine games for Nelson at forward, finishing with two assists.“I think we’ve got three goaltenders that could be starters and what combination we’re going to go with is something that as a coaching staff we’re going to decide,” said Leafs coach Mario DiBella following Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Spokane. “The requirement of getting someone else into camp was based on (Jason) Sandhu going down with injury, and not knowing how serious that injury was. Certainly we felt both Bolding and Allen we brought in to tryout have responded well.”Leafs continue to tinker with the roster, adding defenceman Noah Looman this week.Looman comes to Nelson from Yorkton Terriers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.DiBella is also hoping for another cut from the BC Hockey League.Nelson, currently riding a three-game winning streak, is back in action Friday when the Leafs travel to Fruitvale to face the Nitehawks.Friday’s encounter makes the fourth time this season the teams have played in Beaver Valley.Saturday, Nelson sees its first action against Eddie Mountain opposition when Columbia Valley visits the NDCC Arena.Game time is 7 p.m.The game is a salute to Breast Cancer Month. Special guest is Galena Rose Pal and her daughter Snow.The Heritage City has been rallying behind the Nelson woman after the mother of one was diagnosed with a serious form of breast cancer.Pal and her daughter will be on hand to perform the puck drop during the opening faceoff.