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Nebraska Soccer Advances to Conference Semifinals With 3-2 Home Win Over Ohio State

by Oct 29, 2023Nebraska Soccer

Nebraska Soccer Advances to Conference Semifinals With 3-2 Home Win Over Ohio State

Nebraska soccer won its quarterfinal match in the Big Ten tournament on Sunday, taking down Ohio State 3-2.

The Buckeyes twice responded to Husker goals before Eleanor Dale’s second-half header gave her team the lead for good. The Huskers now travel to Columbus, Ohio, where the remainder of the tournament will take place. Here are four takeaways from the match.

Huskers Stay in Control of Close Match

Most, if not all of the opening half felt pretty even between the two sides. Nebraska held a significant advantage in shots, but Ohio State had created multiple dangerous chances throughout the early portions of the contest.

The first 30 minutes went by scoreless. Had the Buckeyes been able to maintain that into halftime, it would’ve been a clear positive for the visitors. Nebraska’s only been shutout in an opening half twice this season, those matches being the team’s only losses against Saint Louis and Penn State.

Instead, the Huskers played the game they wanted to play. Abbey Schwarz set up the first score by finding Eleanor Dale between two defenders in the 34th minute, and after Ohio State scored a minute after, Sarah Weber’s impressive goal put the home side back in front.

The best the Buckeyes could do was match Nebraska in stretches, and they did well to tie it up again with a shot from outside the box early in the second half. Nebraska continued to control the match, however, and after Dale’s second goal, the Huskers played well down the stretch to secure the win.

“The key was keeping our composure and making sure we knew how we play and keeping our mentality good and I think that led us to creating more goal opportunities,” Florence Belzile said postgame.

Record Update

Nebraska’s team success has been remarkable this season, but with every match, individual greatness continues to shine through.

Eleanor Dale had her 10th two-goal game of the season, as she’s now up to 25 goals on the year. That’s the third-most ever in a season in program history, and she’s two goals away from tying Kim Engesser’s 27 in 1998. With at least two matches left between the conference semifinals and a likely NCAA tournament spot, she’ll have a good chance to match or break the record.

Dale’s not the only one making history on the team. Belzile had her second three-assist game of the year, this one being the first in program history to come in a conference tournament match. She’s near the top of the nation in assists, though she wasn’t selected to an all-conference team.

“I take assists really seriously,” Belzile said. “I love feeding the ball to people and I think it creates a lot of opportunities in attack.”

Her 16 assists this year are tied for third in program history, though she’d need five more to tie Brittany Timko’s 2005 campaign.

While players might not be focused on setting those types of historic marks, continued high-level play from the team’s most productive players will be key to postseason success.

Looking Ahead

Nebraska’s next opponent was decided in the hours after the conclusion of its own win.

Coming off a win over Penn State, Wisconsin hosted Rutgers. The Badgers statistically dominated the match, shooting 29 times with 11 on target while holding their opponent to eight total shots. Still, regulation and overtime went by scoreless. Wisconsin got close to scoring time after time, but the Scarlet Knights’ defense held firm enough to force a shootout.

That was much less dramatic, however. Wisconsin keeper Erin McKinney saved the first two Rutgers shots, allowing her own team to go up 3-0. A Scarlet Knight make kept the visitors alive momentarily, but Ashley Martinez sealed a 4-1 shootout win.

Nebraska tied both potential opponents in the regular season, with the Wisconsin match being particularly memorable. The Huskers scored early in front of a crowd of over 1,700, but the Badgers broke through for an equalizer in the 88th minute, forcing a draw.

Nebraska averages nearly 20 shots a game, but it was held to just eight that day.

Both teams are top-25 in RPI, and ranked in the top 20 of the United Soccer Coaches poll. By all known information, Thursday’s match in Columbus, Ohio, should be a fantastic one. Postgame, the Huskers were looking forward to playing whichever side took the victory.

“We don’t really look at it like we haven’t beaten that team,” Weber said of the then-unknown next matchup. “It’s just another opportunity to beat them.”

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