3 of Wisconsin’s winningest women athletes

Hilary Knight, Photo Credit: Fight for Women's Sports podcast

By Christina Lorey

March 11, 2024

DID YOU KNOW? Women’s involvement in athletics at the University of Wisconsin traces back to the late 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1974 that UW recognized them as intercollegiate programs. 

On March 1, 1974, the Athletic Board at UW officially incorporated a 12-sport women’s program at the university. 

After more than 500 All-Americans, 95 Big Ten Championships, 9 National Championships, and 50 years–women’s athletic programs at the UW have proven to be the apex of national athletic achievement.

Here are three of the greatest female Badgers to ever wear the red and white:

Hilary Knight, Hockey

Former Badger Hilary Knight will go down in history as one of the greatest women’s hockey players of all time–not only in Madison, but in the entire NCAA. Knight’s 143 goals and 262 points for the Badgers put her #1 on the all-time list. But that’s not all — in addition to  her impressive individual numbers, she also led the team to two national championships in 2009 and 2011.

Biggest Moment: Knight was part of the 2018 U.S. Olympic team which won U.S. women’s hockey’s first gold medal since 1998!

MORE: How Women’s Hockey Became a Wisconsin Dynasty

Rose Lavelle, Soccer

Rose Lavelle is one of the greatest soccer players to ever suit up for Wisconsin, and she dominated the college women’s game from 2013-2016 during her time in Madison. Nearly two months after her final game for the Badgers, Lavelle made history as the first Wisconsin athlete to be selected first overall in the National Women’s Soccer League draft. Two years later, in 2019, Lavelle scored three goals during the World Cup tournament (including one in the final against the Netherlands) to help the US win. 

Biggest Moment (So Far): After America’s 2019 World Cup win, Lavelle was named  one of the best players in the world and the best in her position in the 2019 FIFA FIFPro World XI. 

Karen Lunda, Soccer and Field Hockey

Karen Lunda paved the way for the aforementioned athletes. While she was first a three-year member of Wisconsin’s field hockey team, she switched to soccer in the early ’80s when the field hockey folded. While Lunda hadn’t played since high school, she decided to give it a shot and scored 22 goals and 18 assists in her first season. She went on to become the first UW soccer player, men’s or women’s, to be selected as an All-American.

Biggest Moment: More than 40 years later, no women’s soccer player has scored or assisted more in a single season than Lunda did in 1981.

RELATED: WalletHub Ranked 392 American Sports Cities. Here’s Where 5 Wisconsin Towns Landed.


  • Christina Lorey

    Christina is an Edward R. Murrow-winning journalist and former producer, reporter, and anchor for TV stations in Madison and Moline. When she’s not writing or asking questions, you can find her volunteering with Girls on the Run, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and various mental health organizations.



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