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Year in Review: Peak Performers

first_imgIt could easily be argued that University of Wisconsin athletics have never been stronger and much of that is due to the amazing individuals that helped make that happen.It has been said that no position in sports can control the outcome of a game like the goaltender in ice hockey and Brian Elliott took that to heart. Elliott stood on his head in crucial moments while leading the men’s hockey team to a title.Not to say that the men’s hockey national title team was devoid of offense, as there was maybe no more electric player in the country than Robbie Earl, who possibly had the most chanted name in the brief history of the Kohl Center. The NHL took notice, snapping him up along with fellow scorers Adam Burish, who was just simply put, “The Captain” and sweet-sticked Joe Pavelski, who led the team in points.The football team repeatedly put their fortunes in the hands of their seniors this season. And why not? With seniors like Joe Thomas (UW’s first Outland Trophy winner), all-conference passer John Stocco and the always-colorfully mohawked Mark Zalewski, Wisconsin was in good hands. Though seniority ruled, youth was served as well, as freshman tailback P.J. Hill led the Big Ten in rushing and was named Freshman of the Year by Rivals.com.The men’s basketball team is as hyped as it has ever been, and after losing only one senior from the 2006 NCAA tournament squad, both Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor were named to the Wooden Award watch-list, with Tucker being named preseason Player of the Year.Tucker led the Big Ten in scoring, pulling 20 points a contest in conference play, often scoring in the paint, proving himself the league’s best post-player despite being no taller than 6-foot-6. Taylor, on the other hand, was a clutch marksman from outside who used his lighting-quick first step to finish second on the team in scoring.Never one to be outdone, women’s hoopster Jolene Anderson, an all-conference selection from a year ago, was named to the Naismith Award watch-list this year and is currently second in the conference in scoring.While he suffered a disappointing day at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, senior Chris Solinsky has more than his fair share of ups this year, including some track accolades in the spring. He was named the Big Ten Indoor Athlete of the Year for his performances, which included setting Big Ten Indoor Championship meet records in the 3,000 and 5,000. Outdoors, Solinsky wasn’t too shabby either, winning the conference title at 1,500 meters.After a couple of rough years, the men’s golf team enjoyed a spectacular fall season largely thanks to superb play of a Dairy State native transferring back home from Kentucky: Dan Woltman. Woltman picked up a win at Mattaponi Springs and was a consistent finisher for the Badgers, proving that you can indeed come home again.Nolan Polley and Jeremy Sonkin have provided quite the one-two punch for the Badger men’s tennis team. The pair of juniors began this season ranked inside the top 80 nationally at the singles position, and as a doubles duo were ranked No. 38 in the country. On the women’s side, Caitlin Burke started out at No. 31, and was briefly inside the top 20 in the spring season.But without question UW’s biggest superstar of 2006 is women’s ice hockey maven Sara Bauer. The quiet senior from Ontario, Bauer had been the WCHA’s best offensive performer in the WCHA for quite some time before she finally helped lead the Badgers all the way to its first national championship.With 22 goals and 56 total points, Bauer was named the nation’s best women’s hockey player, earning the Patty Kazmaier Award.Midway through this season, she has emerged as a favorite to win it again, though she is getting stiff competition from linemate Jinelle Zaugg, who at 6-foot-1, is as imposing a force as you will find in college hockey.last_img read more