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Photo Credit: John Peterson

Five Takeaways From Nebraska Soccer’s Exhibition Sweep This Week

August 12, 2023

The Nebraska soccer team sweated through two humid exhibition victories at Barbara Hibner Stadium this week. A late scoring flurry topped South Dakota State on Tuesday before the Huskers thoroughly controlled Oklahoma on Friday. The Huskers took positives from both friendlies as they head into a third week of practice and the start of the regular season.

It’s important to note this year’s team’s goal. They want to to make the NCAA Tournament. Nebraska was the first team left out of last year’s NCAA Tournament, ending up on the wrong side of the RPI rankings. The Huskers started slow last season and it took a speech from head coach John Walker to reassure the squad. Following that drubbing at Saint Louis, the Huskers charged into conference play, hosted a Big Ten Tournament match for the first time and fell to in the conference semifinals, 2-1, to No. 1 Michigan State.

With all that in mind, and a regular-season opener at Creighton approaching on Thursday, here are some takeaways from the two friendlies.

Firepower up top

Gretna native Sarah Weber and Bennington graduate Abbey Schwarz return to provide substantial goal-scoring threats. Weber played 49 minutes in the 2-0 win over Oklahoma and 85 minutes in the 2-1 win against South Dakota State on Tuesday. Schwarz, meanwhile, played 76 minutes against the Jackrabbits and 45 against the Sooners. The two combined for four shots on goal in each game. Eleanor Dale started against Oklahoma and played 50 minutes up to, sending one of her five shots on goal. Dale spent the summer playing for the California Storm in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, where she won the league’s golden boot for her 15 goals.

These three became Nebraska’s most consistent scorers last season. Few Big Ten programs return such substantial scoring threats for the 2023 season. The Husker attack gets even more potent when senior forward/midfielder Reagan Raabe returns to the field. The Millard West graduate suffered a knee injury in the 2022 regular-season finale.

Quick counter

While Oklahoma rarely posed a coordinator scoring threat, the Huskers showed improvement on the counter in the friendlies. These Huskers like to attack on the flanks. That way they can use speed along the touchline from wing backs.

The two exhibition matches proved the Huskers will continue to attack from the outside. Midfield players Haley Peterson, Sadie Waite and Florence Belzille played more confident and assured in the exhibition matches. They limited turnovers and quickened pace with connecting balls to either the forwards at the top or the speedy fullbacks working up the field.

Veteran backfield

A potential issue for most Big Ten teams is inexperience in the back. That won’t be an issue for the Huskers. First, Samantha Hauk is still the apparent starter, although it’s certainly reassuring Cece Villa played well in 47 minutes off the bench between the two matches. Nicola Hauk, Maggie Altman, Jordan Zade and Lauryn Anglim all bring a veteran anchor to the Husker defense.

Hauk plays dominant in the middle while Zade is as industrious as ever. Anglim and Altman both showed strength and physicality in the back to win balls. Audra Clark played well coming off the bench.

Warm welcome

Over 1,000 fans came out on Tuesday and another 900 visited Hibner Stadium for Friday’s match. They welcomed the Huskers back while greeting a few new faces for the first time.

Lincoln East graduate Kayma Carpenter scored an unstoppable header against Oklahoma. She played 105 minutes between the two matches and built on the positive momentum of her spring season. Ella Rudney sent one of her three shots on goal in 69 minutes off the bench. The New York native didn’t look out of place in the flow of both games. English international freshman Samantha Corrie played 28 minutes in defense against Oklahoma. Norris graduate Reese Borer spent 85 minutes combined in defense and Gretna graduate Ava Makovicka logged 16 minutes.

It’s tough to gauge how much impact those freshmen will make. Coming in as a defender right away is difficult in the Big Ten but Borer impressed on Friday. Carpenter and Rudney seem at home up top and could be regular contributors right away.

On the rise

The usual suspects made their own claims this week but a few surging players stood out. Ella Guyott made plays against South Dakota State before putting together an incredibly solid effort against Oklahoma. She fought off defenders and won contested balls while looking to advance play. A big season from her would do wonders for the Huskers.

Defender Marissa Popoola impressed in her combined 83 minutes this week. The senior from Kansas City was a regular bench contributor last year but she looked like an improved player this past week. While she isn’t quite ready to crack the starting XI, especially in the back line, her evolution gives the Huskers a lift.

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