Home sweet hom: Wildcat returns to familiar links

first_imgBRYAN FAUST/Herald photoThere is something that makes the University of Wisconsin special and different from other universities around the nation. The students here know it, and visitors can feel it when they step foot on campus.That is, perhaps, why Dan Woltman decided to transfer back to his home state and play golf here at UW.”It’s nice to be home,” Woltman said.Woltman, a native of Beaver Dam, some 40 miles northeast of Madison, spent his freshman year on a full golf scholarship at the University of Kentucky. Woltman received numerous scholarship offers during his senior year at Watertown Luther Prep, including one for Wisconsin, but chose to compete for the Wildcats of Kentucky.”Kentucky has been known as being a good golf school,” Woltman said. “I really thought Kentucky was the right choice for me, but after a year I realized it wasn’t.”Woltman spent much of this past summer not only working on his golf game, but also thinking about where he would take his skill to continue playing once the school year started.”I loved everything about Kentucky … except for the golf,” Woltman said. “I made a lot of friends down there. But things just didn’t mesh well with the coaches, and the guys on the team just seemed to be too different than me.”So Woltman made the choice to play for head coach Jim Schuman and the Badgers.”I’ve played with a lot of the guys on the team here since I was ten or eleven years old,” Woltman said. “We all started young with the junior tournaments. I played a lot with them this summer too. They all talked to me about transferring up here and playing here. The more they talked, the more I thought I could help turn around this program.”And what a turnaround it has been for the cardinal and white. So far this season, the Badgers have two tournament titles to go along with a fifth-place and third-place finish. According to Woltman, those tournament wins were the first for the program in two years.”Dan’s been a great addition to this team,” Schuman said. “He’s undoubtedly a great player. It helps that he’s such good friends with the guys on this team … it’s just a great fit for him.”Last season, Woltman helped Kentucky to a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. He finished the year ranked as the 134th best player according to Golf Week Magazine. Currently the magazine has him listed at 59th.He’s already got his name in the Wisconsin record books, holding the second-lowest 54-hole score when he carded a 14-under-par 202 as he took the individual title at the Mattaponi Springs Invitational earlier this fall.”Dan brings such a talent to this team,” Schuman said. “He’s won college titles, state and national junior titles. His skill and his winning attitude have been huge for us thus far this year.”With the success Woltman has had playing in junior tournaments and thus far in college, he is already thinking about the day when he will take his game to the professional level and compete on the PGA Tour.”I’ve thought about turning pro early,” Woltman said. “It all depends on what I feel that the time is right. When I feel that I can be competitive on the tour and make some money, that’s when I’ll make that decision and take the next step.”But for now, Woltman is just living the college dream.”I love it here at Wisconsin,” Woltman said. “I’m home and close to my family and so many of my friends.”Right now it just feels right to be a Badger.”last_img read more

MLAX : Orange defense smothers talented Denver attack

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm Commentscenter_img Three minutes. That’s how long Denver’s first possession lasted.Three minutes of almost no offense.The Pioneers made a couple of runs at goal, but the advances were quickly cut off by Syracuse’s help defense. It was mostly cycling the ball around the zone, hoping something would open up. Junior midfielder Patrick Rogers finally tried a shot as he pivoted for a little space, but it sailed high.Denver retained possession, but junior Alex Demopoulos’ pass on the restart bounced off his teammate’s stick and was scooped up by SU defender Tom Guadagnolo.Syracuse took over, and Denver had nothing to show for its three minutes of possession.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThat’s how most of the day went for the Denver offense as Syracuse went on to a 13-7 win. The seven goals equaled the Pioneers’ lowest-scoring output from last year. The Orange held Demopoulos, Denver’s leading scorer last season, to just one shot and an assist.The Pioneers failed to score more than two goals in any quarter.‘I thought the defense picked up where they left off last year,’ SU head coach John Desko said. ‘They did a very good job of understanding who the personnel were on the field.’Denver struggled to get good looks all game, putting only 16 shots on target. They also coughed the ball up 15 times.‘We did it to ourselves,’ Pioneers head coach Bill Tierney said. ‘Every time we got the ball, we seemed to throw it away. We just weren’t patient enough.’But when Denver wasn’t turning the ball over, Syracuse shut down its best scorer in Demopoulos.Senior defender John Lade covered him all game and gave him no room to work, even without the ball. Lade said he worked in practice all week on keeping an eye on his man rather than the player with the ball, and it worked well Sunday.‘He’s a very good off-ball player,’ Lade said. ‘I just tried to keep my head on a swivel and watch him off ball as much as possible. I was surprised they didn’t give him the ball to dodge because I think he’s probably one of their best dodgers.’Syracuse dominates XThroughout Sunday, Syracuse rarely struggled in faceoff situations behind midfielder Jeremy Thompson.The Orange won 17-of-24 faceoffs against Denver, including 3-of-3 in the second quarter and 7-of-8 in the third.‘I thought they won some early and thought we adjusted,’ Desko said. ‘Jeremy Thompson did a very good job for a stretch to keep the possessions after goals in Orange sticks.’Thompson’s consistent faceoff victories over Denver attack Michael Pirone gave Syracuse plenty of opportunities to go on scoring streaks. For much of the game, Denver struggled to get the ball back into its offensive zone as a result of that.Pioneer head coach Bill Tierney said Pirone, a freshman, only began taking faceoffs last Monday. Tierney said it wasn’t an excuse but an explanation as to why Denver was beat 17 times in faceoff situations. Taking the lack of experience into consideration, Tierney said he felt his team did a good job in those situations.‘He was our best guy for that job,’ Tierney said. ‘I thought we did a good job. … It is what it is.’Desko’s ‘ridiculous’ goalJovan Miller thought there was no chance for a shot, let alone a score.The senior midfielder watched as teammate Tim Desko caught a pass on the crease and took a big hit from a Denver defender that sent him flying through the air. With his body parallel to the Carrier Dome field, Desko figured he had only one option.‘I cut through the crease, and that was my only shot,’ he said. ‘So I put it behind my back and hoped it went in.’As he fell to the turf, the redshirt junior attack flicked a shot behind his back that beat Denver goalie Jamie Faus to put SU up 12-5 in the third quarter.And Miller had just one word to describe the goal.‘Ridiculous,’ he said. ‘I didn’t think he could get a shot off, and the fact that he was pretty much airborne and just threw it behind the back was ridiculous.’zjbrown@syr.educjiseman@syr.edulast_img read more

No man’s Land: The journey of UW baseball’s final head coach

first_imgHe had coached baseball at the Division I level for 21 years and then one day in May of 1991, it was over.He hasn’t coached since.But the story of Steve Land is hardly that simple.His decision was by no means made in the spur of the moment. But when the University of Wisconsin voted to cut baseball in the spring of 1991, Land had to make a difficult choice. He no longer had a position as the head coach.Down, not out: Club baseball at Wisconsin has kept alive hope for return of Division I teamAn unprecedented crowd of 1,200 fans packed Guy Lowman Field on a Friday in early May of 1991, but it Read…Land thought about potentially coaching at a lower level Division I school, following his eight years at the helm of the Badgers. But he was raising a family and balked at having to uproot it to pursue his coaching career.It came down to a simple reality for all Division I baseball teams: America’s national pastime doesn’t generate money at the college level. Land would have to scrap for resources at another school like he had done at UW.“After being here 21 years and battling and battling and battling, I just thought I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing that,” Land said.“I had twin boys that were raised in the school system. It would have taken quite a bit for me to leave and pull them out of it,” he added.And so after Wisconsin fell 1-0 to Purdue in the finale of a twin bill at Guy Lowman Field May 10, 1991, Land’s coaching career came to a close.Out of left fieldIt was no secret that Wisconsin struggled in baseball and had been a perennial middle of the road team over the course of its 117 years as a program dating back to 1870. But despite the lack of continuous success, with only five Big Ten championships and none since 1950, Land had no clue baseball was on the chopping block, even just a year before it got the axe.In the fall of 1990 Land heard the athletic department was looking into the possibility of eliminating several sports to try to fix long-standing financial issues, he said. That was the first time getting rid of baseball was in the conversation.But by March 23, 1991 the UW athletic board was already convinced it needed to eliminate baseball, along with both men’s and women’s gymnastics and fencing. Try as they might, Land, the players and others involved with the baseball program could not sway the board’s decision.“The fact that it was over was really, really hard to accept,” Land said. “Some still have not accepted it. Some are still as bitter today as they were then. I can understand that.”Dual athlete Rob Andringa, who was a standout defenseman on the hockey team in addition to his utility role on the baseball team, was one of those immediately affected by the athletic department’s decision. He was only in his junior season in the last year of baseball and would have had one more season left had baseball not been cut.But Andringa wasn’t as upset as some of his other teammates.“I don’t know if it hit me hard,” Andringa said. “Honestly, I think some of it had to do that I came to school to play hockey and I was wanting to play baseball, but I was very fortunate that coach Land allowed me to play baseball.”There were a few other players that were dual sport athletes, including John Byce a few years earlier, but for the most part, nearly all of the baseball players only played baseball.Their backgrounds in sports were only one part of the factor of how each player handled the decision.“It varied immensely, not in terms of ability but just in terms of players,” Land said.But regardless of how each player felt about the situation, the final weeks were emotional.“There was a lot of tears, anger, heartfelt speeches and rallying and points and moments during the last year of baseball that tried to show the general public that this was not right cutting the baseball program,” Andringa said.The final mood in the last game was not overbearingly negative, according to Land, but Wisconsin took to the field in symbolic fashion.“We wore black shoes, and black socks, and black shirts, black hats” Land said of the attire for the final game. “But just the finality of realizing that baseball was done and that these kids were done playing baseball at the University of Wisconsin. They had a lot of questions. That was not easy for any of them.”Move to the standsThe transition for Land was made better by the fact that he had more in his life than just baseball.Coaches back in the early ’90s, especially in a non-revenue sport like baseball, weren’t paid at the rates they are now. That pushed Land to find an additional source of employment, so he could maintain his family’s financial stability.As part of his college education, Land had taken some math classes because he was required to get a certificate in another field in addition to his major in physical education. After graduating from Northern Illinois in 1964, Land took a job at Highland Park High School just outside of Chicago, where he ended up teaching math along with his duties as head baseball coach.When he came to Wisconsin as an assistant under Tom Meyer in 1970, Land switched from teaching to learning once more, as he decided he wanted to pursue a master’s in physical education. But after a few years, Land realized he’d rather spend his time more focused on baseball.That’s when he picked up teaching again.“I’m sure that some people thought that I should be full-time in the athletic department and be a full-time coach, which would have been my choice,” Land said. “But with what they paid me salary-wise that wasn’t something I felt I could afford to do.“I would have made more money if I was full-time teaching.”In his 21 years as a coach with the Badgers, Land spent the better part of 19 of them teaching at Madison’s Memorial and West high schools. Sometimes that meant getting back from road trips at 3 a.m. on a Monday morning and only a few hours later showing up to teach morning math classes at West.Land spent his mornings instructing teenagers and then afternoons at baseball practices with college-aged athetes. Sometimes when baseball practice ended early, Land would take some time to recruit. In addition to that he also had to fundraise and complete other administrative duties, as he was responsible for nearly every aspect of the program.But even with everything he had on his plate, Land never felt overwhelmed with all aspects of his double life.“I had some difficulties some times, but the season actually ended in terms of, I didn’t know how to slow down,” Land said. “All of sudden I had a day where I didn’t really have to do something all day long.”Life after the showAt the age of 57, Land had retired from teaching and thought about trying to find a job at UW, which he had originally done after losing his job as head baseball coach.But just as before, he found his way back to teaching where he stayed for another 12 years.He finally retired from teaching morning classes at Madison West about four years ago, but he still continues with education, tutoring in his spare time.And although his baseball coaching career might have concluded years ago, his relationship with baseball still continues to this day as well.It’s just a little different.“The only place I really get involved with it now is with grandchildren, and as much as I can with that, which is a lot of fun to see and watch,” Land said.However, his now distant past with Badgers’ baseball is remembered by many throughout Madison’s baseball community.“No matter where I went in Madison everybody that knew I worked in baseball, that was always the thing that was brought up,” Land said. “It still is today. I run into people that I haven’t seen for awhile, ‘When’s baseball coming back? Is it ever coming back?’”Even though the prospect of baseball is brought up to him quite often, Land assured he doesn’t get tired of hearing about it. But he recognizes the probability of baseball returning is slim.Although the baseball team was underfunded and had some of the worst facilities in the Big Ten while it was around, it provided lasting memories for Land and Andringa even in its dying embers.“The last moment … I think everyone knew that this was it,” Andringa said. “From there, all you can hang onto are your memories and the friendships and the things that you’ve built up during your years at Wisconsin. And hopefully take those with you and turn them into a positive somehow.”Land managed to transform the turmoil into positives and has had some time to reflect on his time as the last coach in Badger history. He regrets a few things like not getting to know his players better and not giving some players more opportunities.But he also remembers what he helped instill as coach.“We had three things: wear your hat right, run hard, be on time,” Land recalled. “Run hard means that you busted your butt all the times that you were there. Wear your hat right meant that you looked like a baseball player. You weren’t sloppy in your appearance whether on the field or off it. Be on time was that when things were supposed to happen, you were ready for them to happen.”Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part story about baseball at the University of Wisconsin. UW had a varsity baseball team until 1991 when the sport was cut by the athletic department along with five others in order to combat a financial deficit.last_img read more