Badgers women’s soccer: Victoria Pickett tries to create her own path
It’s not like the University of Wisconsin women’s soccer team was going to leave the right side of midfield empty.
Someone had to take the place of Rose Lavelle after the program’s first three-time All-American moved on as the top draft pick in the National Women’s Soccer League and to a spot with the U.S. national team.
The task of following in Lavelle’s esteemed footsteps has fallen to Victoria Pickett, a redshirt sophomore with a decorated background of her own.
The position on the field might be the same, but the outlook is different for Pickett.
“I can’t really live up to Rose,” Pickett said. “I think I just have to live up to my own standards.”
Pickett is back with the Badgers after spending last season with Canada’s team for the Under-20 Women’s World Cup, her second time playing in the tournament. She came off the bench in the first two games and started the third, playing all 90 minutes.
Canada failed to advance beyond the group stage in Papua New Guinea.
That experience came after Pickett was named the Big Ten Conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2015. That promising start has the Badgers thinking she’ll do fine following Lavelle, who was a two-time conference midfielder of the year.
They are big shoes to fill, but UW coach Paula Wilkins said she tries to frame things differently to Pickett.
“She sometimes feels pressure to replace Rose, and I said that you’re completely different than Rose and we have to create our own pathway,” Wilkins said. “And she also has to realize that what Rose was her sophomore year wasn’t what Rose was her senior year.”
Being in the U-20 World Cup meant Pickett missed a season in which the Badgers went 9-5-8 overall and 5-2-4 in the Big Ten. They continued a trend dating to 2010 of making the NCAA tournament in even-numbered years.
This season, which continues with a 7 p.m. game today against Creighton at the McClimon Soccer Field, UW was picked for sixth in the 14-team Big Ten.
Pickett, senior goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem and sophomore forward Dani Rhodes got preseason league recognition.
The Badgers, who add Pickett to a group of seven starters returning from last season, won their home opener against Kentucky last Friday 1-0 but then suffered a 5-0 defeat vs. No. 2 Stanford on Sunday in Milwaukee.
The latter was an eye-opening experience.
“All these young players are getting on the field and (it’s) exciting,” Wilkins said. “But until you get to experience the speed of Stanford, you can’t mimic it in training. What I said is, if we don’t learn from this and move forward, then we’ve lost an opportunity to get better.”
Pickett, whom Wilkins called one of the most gifted players she’s ever coached, said the loss was a humbling experience — individually and as a team.
“It woke us up, and I think now we can finally put our butts into gear,” Pickett said. “Hopefully it won’t have to happen again for us to get it going.”