Ella Guyott’s late-game entry was one that could’ve gone unnoticed.
The redshirt freshman was on the field entering the final 10 minutes of Nebraska soccer’s second round NCAA tournament game against Tennessee, but exited in the midst of a concerning situation.
Eleanor Dale, the Huskers’ leading goal-scorer, went down with an apparent head injury after a major midair collision in the box. Dale subbed out, along with Guyott and the injured Tennessee player involved in the hit.
A minute after play resumed, officials stopped it again and forced Gwen Lane to sub out as an injury precaution. Guyott returned, and so did Lane soon after.
Much of the final stretch’s intrigue came in these stoppages, with the absence of Dale and other officiating moments that the home crowd at Hibner Stadium disliked. There was some action by the Huskers and Volunteers, but the match appeared headed for overtime, where the sides could reset.
Guyott understandably faded into the background as a result, where she remained — until a Jordan Zade cross found her alone at the back post in the final minute for a game-winning goal.
Nebraska won its second-round tournament game 2-1 thanks to goals late in each half by Nebraska natives Sarah Weber and Guyott.
“When Jordan has the ball, she’s going to cross it,” Guyott said postgame. “So I just want to find myself in a position, and in like slow motion, it just came to me.”
Without being prompted, Coach John Walker chimed in to praise Guyott and her journey. She redshirted due to a “bad” ACL injury out of high school, focusing on rehab last season and making great improvements in the technical aspects of her game as a result. She’s played consistently this season, but tonight marked the first goal of her Husker career.
“To see her growth this fall has just been incredible and so deserving,” Walker said. “So I’m really happy for her tonight.”
Guyott said scoring in that situation meant “everything” to her, though it was for the sake of the team and not herself. It kept Nebraska’s season alive, continuing the postseason run.
Friday night’s game was highly competitive and even from start to finish. Nebraska came out of the gates aggressive and possessing the ball often, but struggled to create quality chances or connect when they were there. The defense had some lapses as well, though Tennessee had just two shots on goal in the first 45 minutes.
It appeared that the teams would head into the break tied as another errant pass sailed out for a Volunteer goal kick with under 20 seconds to go. However, Tennessee keeper Ally Zazzara, fresh off a 15-save performance in the opening round, slipped just as she prepared to connect with the ball.
The resulting kick didn’t leave the box, and Weber made a dash for the ball. The Husker junior got there before anyone else, and capitalized on the empty net before Zazzara could get back in position.
Nebraska then went into the half up a goal, but couldn’t protect the lead for long. Less than five minutes into the second half, Tennessee created a good opportunity for Macaira Midgley, who finished to equalize.
“I think that’s a credit to what our team’s been through all year,” Volunteers head coach Joe Kirt said. “Didn’t phase them, just ‘let’s go start the second half.’”
The rest of the second half played out as a physical back-and-forth affair, with both teams creating chances but not able to finish. Nebraska in particular failed to connect on a number of its passes, even some routine ones near midfield. Zade did send a good cross to Dale, but the forward’s header went straight to Zazzara.
As time kept winding down, Nebraska kept looking for a score without the player who had delivered most often. It had already finished one half well, but as Weber mentioned postgame, the team had somewhat of a history of late failures. This season, the Huskers had conceded result-changing goals in the last minute during draws against Creighton and Wisconsin and losses to Saint Louis and Penn State.
They’ve felt growth in that area though, and looked to show it late.
“That’s where we’ve turned the corner as a team,” Weber said. “We’re going to play all 90 minutes and any minute after that.”
Guyott said they didn’t want to see overtime, and she made that happen. Zade’s cross was first met by a jumping Tennessee defender, who couldn’t get high enough to properly direct her header. The ball continued on, rendering Zazzara out of position as well. Guyott, all alone, controlled the ball and sent it rolling in, under a leaping Volunteer looking for a last-second block.
After the score, there were still more than 50 seconds left, and Tennessee earned a corner kick in that time, to the dismay of Walker. Nebraska turned it away still, and secured the win.
The Huskers will play UC Irvine on Sunday at 1 p.m. CT, as the Anteaters beat Gonzaga 2-1 earlier on Friday. Dale’s status for that contest is unknown after she walked off slowly to the locker room with trainers and did not return.
This will be Nebraska’s first appearance in the round of 16 since 2004. Postgame, Guyott found that interesting, pointing out a coincidence that made the program’s longtime head coach force a laugh.
“That’s the year I was born.”