Discover more from Counter Read
Nebraska soccer rallies twice, has huge Tournament opportunity at home
With the latest victory, Nebraska is now 15-3-3 and into the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Huskers will also host the second and third rounds.
Brady Oltmans returns to Counter Read, this time to talk Nebraska soccer. The Huskers won their first round matchup in the NCAA Tournament on Friday and it’s on to the second round for the team. Brady — who operates False Nine, a passionate and well-written Substack devoted to coverage of women’s soccer — has the latest on Nebraska’s journey. (It’s also a great time to subscribe to his Substack if you haven’t already.) — ES
Sarah Weber couldn’t remember how she started her run or where she saw the opportunity to bury her second goal on Friday night. With a fresh cut on the bridge of her nose, which she called a character builder, she giggled and followed the breadcrumbs to the moment. She remembered the ball bouncing off the defender’s head and onto the grass just outside the box, a chip through pass from teammate Eleanor Dale. Weber also remembered getting a soft touch on the ball to create space. The rest was technique—muscle memory from the Gretna native with 14 goals to her account this season.
That strike came less than 3 minutes into the second half to give Nebraska two-goal lead in what became a 5-2 victory over South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Hibner Stadium. Nebraska twice trailed the Jackrabbits in that match, a testament to a quick counterattack and what Husker head coach John Walker called playing “too hectic” initially. So Weber’s left-footed score gave the Huskers momentum out of halftime. It also showed the resilience of a team that’s grown together over two seasons.
“I think we were very reactive on the physical side so at half we said we need to individually win our duals and that was going to transfer to the rest of the field,” sophomore midfielder Sadie Waite said. “That was the kind of turning point for us, for sure.”
Waite twice equalized for the Huskers in the first half. She intercepted a pass, drove about 10 yards into space before unleashing a rope past the diving goalkeeper for her first. That came in the 5th minute to counter a 3rd minute Jackrabbits goal. Nebraska then trailed for 10 minutes before a poor corner kick clearance lofted towards the top of the box. Waite measured the drop and drilled it before the ball hit the ground. Weber said of the Ontario native’s volley afterwards, “That was a rocket.”
Weber gave Nebraska the permanent lead 5 minutes after that goal, off a cross from Ella Guyott. Then came the halftime adjustments and Weber’s second goal. NCAA leading scorer Eleanor Dale added to her tally with a header off an Abbey Schwarz cross. Dale’s nodded 26th goal now puts her one shy of the program single-season record. Nebraska saw through the result without conceding any viable Jackrabbits comeback attempt.
South Dakota State initially contained the game and prevented Nebraska from playing in wide areas. The Huskers like to stretch the field to create openings with their speed. Nebraska also doesn’t shy from physicality, which the Jackrabbits matched on Friday. Weber’s new scar came a few weeks after suffering a cut on her forehead against Purdue that ultimately stained her white shirt sleeves. She remained in that game and the Huskers won.
“I know for our group, anyone that’s watched us, that’s the way they are,” Walker said. “They’re all in.”
With the latest victory, Nebraska is now 15-3-3 and into the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Because UC Irvine stunned No. 2 UCLA with a late strike and Tennessee pulled an extra-time upset over No. 17 Xavier, the Huskers host the second and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Nebraska plays Tennessee on Friday at 7 p.m. No. 19 Gonzaga and UC Irvine also play in Lincoln on Friday, at 3:30 p.m. The winners of those two games meet at Hibner Stadium on Sunday, November 19.
Nebraska most recently made the second round in 2016, also the Huskers’ last NCAA Tournament appearance. Walker thought maybe those postseason emotions and the adrenaline of 2,044 fans (second-most attended match in Hibner Stadium history) contributed to the soft turnovers and erratic play early against South Dakota State. Every Husker returned from last year’s team, which was the first team in the RPI rankings left out of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Weber admitted the team joked the committee would leave the Huskers out once again. But the Huskers have grown into undoubtedly one of the country’s top 16 teams. They are one of the best offensive teams in the country and their only three losses came to teams still in the tournament after the first weekend.
“Our team has matured a lot from last year to this year so when we get into situations like (Friday) we’re not rattled,” Weber said. “We can handle it and bounce back. Obviously, we know we can score goals and that’s what we relied on tonight.”
Nebraska’s high-powered offense will be tested against Tennessee. Five of the Vols’ nine wins this season are shutouts. That includes shutting down No. 17 Xavier for 110 minutes, not allowing one of the Musketeers’ 41 shots into the net. First-year Tennessee head coach Joe Kirt called the Vols’ performance gritty, highlighting redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Ally Zazzara’s program-record 15 saves.
Nebraska has not made the third round of the NCAA Tournament since 2004.
Counter Read is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
More from Nebraska athletics over the weekend:
» Nebraska football fell to Maryland, 13-10, on Saturday. We have a video over on YouTube recapping our thoughts and there has been some good conversation so far. Join in.
» The No. 1 Nebraska volleyball team defeated the Illinois Fighting Illi on Sunday, 3-1 (25-14, 25-14, 24-26, 25-22). It wasn’t without some drama in the third set, but the Huskers were able to secure the win regardless and move to 25-0 on the season.
» The Nebraska bowling team’s fall season has concluded with a third place finish over the weekend at the 2023 Motiv Lady Jack Classic. The Huskers had a record of 9-4 and total pinfall of 14,236, closing things out for fall with a 26-13 overall record.
The Huskers will return to action on in early January in Las Vegas.
» The No. 9 Nebraska wrestling team had no trouble with the Campbell Camels on Friday. The Huskers won 37-4 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, moving to 2-0 on the season.
» The Nebraska women’s basketball team faced off against Wyoming on Friday, using a strong second half to take down the Cowgirls 71-52.