Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Second-Half Charge Not Enough As Huskers Fall To No. 9 Northwestern

September 23, 2022

Running into open space with a defender on her hip, Reagan Raabe saw opportunity. The Huskers trailed by two with 15 minutes left. Where momentum favored one, time favored the other.

The junior from Millard West sent a shot for the inside of the post. It would double her tally for the game and pull the Huskers within one against No. 9 Northwestern.

Only Wildcats keeper Reiley Fitzpatrick got enough of a mitt on the shot to push it wide. Nebraska’s ensuing corner kick fizzled out.

The rest of Thursday’s game followed suit. Northwestern took advantage of limited openings and the Huskers couldn’t capitalize on a gutsy outing at Barbara Hibner Stadium. The ninth-ranked team in the country fell behind early, stormed ahead and then frantically held on to beat Nebraska, 4-2.

Nebraska is now 3-4-1 overall, 1-1-0 in the young Big Ten season. Thursday’s loss brought a few takeaways for the Huskers:

New Life In Conference

Nebraska entered its Big Ten season winless in its final four non-conference games. That stretch included a harsh 5-1 loss to ranked Saint Louis in the season’s first road game.

But the Huskers returned home with renewed life. While they ultimately drew with North Carolina State and USC, they played with more aggression than the opening two weekends. They were rewarded with that aggression immediately on Thursday with Reagan Raabe’s corner strike across the box 39 seconds into the match. An Abbey Schwarz goal just before halftime gave the Huskers life into the final 45 minutes. Nebraska outshot Northwestern 12-3 in the second half.

“That’s one thing I love about this team, we will fight from the start whistle to the end whistle. We won’t give up,” junior forward Eleanor Dale said. “I just think we need to be more clinical. At the end of the day, goals win you games and we didn’t score enough.”

All this came after the Huskers’ 88th-minute winner against Minnesota last week. Nebraska has outshot opponents the majority of the season but just hasn’t capitalized.

Lapses Remain

Non-conference play showed the Huskers were vulnerable at different points. An unsure pass or missed tackle snowballed into danger. Those worries weren’t put to bed on Thursday.

The ninth-ranked team responded to Nebraska’s early goal with an 8th-minute strike. Both sides steadied in the midfield before Northwestern took control. In less than 5 minutes the Wildcats took a lead and doubled it.

“There’s obviously a couple of breakdowns, four goals,” Raabe said. “But finishing our chances in both penalty areas, just needs to be cleaner, but it was a good fight and I’m proud of every player.”

In those stretches the Huskers simply weren’t as strong in the midfield. Northwestern’s Rowan Lapi commanded her team forward and the Huskers couldn’t use their speed on the edges to get through. The veteran Wildcats found success going down the defense’s spine. Well-timed passes helped them get through the small windows of opportunities the Huskers gave them.

“To be honest, it’s a little disheartening, because I think we have such a good team and we compete in every single game but we give up silly mistakes, which unfortunately cost us goals,” Dale said. “We’re right in there, we’re competing with every single team.”

Huskers Have Fight

In the face of the No. 9 team in the country, Nebraska created the better second-half scoring chances.

The Huskers consistently attacked and threatened for the first 15 minutes of the second half, right up until Northwestern’s breakaway goal. Nebraska refused to concede at that point. Threatening runs from Abbey Schwarz and Eleanor Dale along the touchlines stretched the defense.

However, the Huskers couldn’t get a clean shot past Reiley Fitzpatrick, especially after she turned away that momentous breakaway. And Fitzpatrick seized corner kicks sent into the box.

“Tonight it was just silly little mistakes so when we nip them in the bud then I think it’ll all be better,” Dale said.

Nebraska travels to Michigan for a match on Sunday.

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