It’s pretty easy to overlook non-revenue collegiate sports, even though several such programs here at Wisconsin are at least decent, if not great ones. For all of the soccer fans out there, come next fall you’re going to want to keep an eye the women’s soccer team.Just last Sunday, the Badgers were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA tournament at the hands of in-state nemesis Marquette in the worst way – penalty kicks. Don’t pay attention to the early exit though.Before head coach Paula Wilkins arrived in 2007 the Badgers were paddling upstream. They hadn’t been a perennial contender in the Big Ten since the late 1990s, but also were never quite the cellar-dwellers either. She’s completely rebuilt the program in just four years. While she hasn’t brought a Big Ten championship back to Madison yet, her squad has finished in third place the last two years, both times getting nudged by traditional top dogs Penn State and Ohio State.But you know what PSU and OSU can’t claim? Two conference losses over the last two years. Just two. But UW can go ahead and wear that hat. It’s easy to argue about how much that means without any hardware to show for it, but think of it this way: Two losses in two years means Wisconsin is tying a lot of games – they’re winning more, but tying too often.The Badgers simply couldn’t finish on top enough. You could attribute that to Wisconsin not having a balanced team. When weighing the offense and defense, the scales have favored the defense lately – 22 shutouts over the last two years, including playoffs. This last season, the Badgers won five of their matches by a 1-0 score and posted three 0-0 ties.You can call it youth, or a lack of artillery, but neither should cause problems next season. As we look forward to the 2011 season, the Badgers will have lost only two starters since 2009. Three, if you count the season-ending injury to forward Paige Adams in the preseason this year, but she’ll be back in 2011 after redshirting.The offense will be more experienced and will get to build off of the late season success it had this year. And it’s remarkable how successful Wilkins’ young team already is: Two third-place conference finishes and two consecutive trips to the NCAAs.This bring me back to the days of the “Baby Boilermakers” of Purdue basketball. Barring the kinds of injuries Purdue went through of course, Wisconsin right now looks ready to shed the sleeper label for contender next year.Six Badgers received conference recognition this season. Forward Laurie Nosbusch and defender Megan Flannery were named to the first team All-Big Ten while midfielders Erin Jacobsen and Alev Kelter, as well as goalkeeper Michele Dalton, made the second team. Defender Catie Sessions made the All-Freshman team (while forward Kodee Williams, in an unfortunate lapse of judgment by the Big Ten, was absent on that list).None of the above are graduating. All but Sessions and Dalton have received some sort of recognition before and they’re all coming back for more. Of the 10 returning starters next year, only four will be entering their senior year. Looking at the current state of the roster, the Badgers will be peaking for at least two years. This team is growing up and that’s bad news for the rest of the Big Ten.If you need any symbolism of their ascent to the conferences thrown, consider this: Penn State (with Wilkins coaching the team for six years) has routinely won the Big Ten ever since its establishment in women’s soccer in the mid-’90s. Before this season, the Nittany Lions had lost only two games on their home field. And after just four years away from State College, Penn., Wilkins built a new team that became the third ever to come away with a ‘W’ on Jeffrey Field. That’s a true indication of just how much impact Wilkins has had on this team.Earlier in the year, when Wisconsin began 0-2-1, the Badgers looked far from a quality team. Passes weren’t connecting, their game resembled kickball more than anything and sloppy play was apparent in the second half.But Wilkins stomped all of that out of the Badgers. By mid-September the team’s offense was methodical, patient and fast, while the defense was as solid as the Hoover Dam. Wilkins has remarkable control over her team. After watching the team evolve over this last year, there’s little doubt she will take them to places Wisconsin has never been before.About five or six games into the Badgers’ record setting shutout streak, I was interviewing Wilkins one day and mentioned her defense had been “basically perfect” over the last few games. When I said that, she made one of those expressions where you tilt your head to the side and kind of stretch out your cheeks a little bit. The expression that kind of says, “Well, that’s not exactly true.”Wilkins knows when to give credit to her players – they’ve been able to impress her multiple times. But it’s not easy to do and she doesn’t let up on them just because it’s a young team that might still be learning. She’s a coach who never stays satisfied and she’ll hound her players until they clean up their act. And she’s not going to allow her team to finish in third place for a third straight year.Elliot is a junior with an undecided major. Are you excited to watch the women’s soccer team next year? Tell him about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.