Wingback Caroline Buelt pulled out a Maradona Friday to split two Oregon State defenders just outside the box. She said it was instinctual. You don’t set out to do a move like that, it just sort of happens. An opportunity to be aggressive presented itself and Buelt took it.
It was a sign of a confident team asserting itself.
As Nebraska built up a 3-0 halftime lead on a winless Beaver team, off-and-on showers couldn’t put a damper on Nebraska’s confidence on the pitch. The Huskers, now 3-0-1 on the season, cruised to a 3-0 victory over Oregon State (0-4) in perhaps their most complete game of the season.
“I just think we had the heart of a team, you know,” Buelt said. “Every individual worked just as hard as the next player. A teammate would give something and you would give more on the next play.”
Center back Sinclaire Miramontez said almost the same thing: Nebraska played a cohesive game Sunday.
“Overall it was just everybody wanted to play for each other. It was a team effort,” she said. “I think we were finding the open spaces and finding feet. Our movement off the ball and finding those quick, little one-twos in behind their back line [was good]. You saw a couple of us playing some balls down the line just to stretch them out a little bit. That eventually opened up more space for our midfielders and our link players to work with.”
Miramontez was one of three Huskers to score on the day; a 29th-minute one-timer off a centered ball from midfielder Brenna Ochoa. Miramontez blasted it, Beaver keeper Bridgette Skiba never had a chance.
“Yeah I mean there are those moments where you just make contact with it and you know, ‘Alright this is going to be on frame and on target,’” she said. There was a brief moment where the ball started to move in the air and she thought it might miss wide, but “somehow it just found its way into the back of the net and celebration follows.”
Miramontez jumped into Ochoa’s arms. Nothing but smiles on a day that saw the Huskers record their second-consecutive clean sheet.
On Friday, Nebraska beat Oregon 2-0 but players said afterward it wasn’t as clean a game as they’d like, that there was room for improvement. There looked to be plenty of improvement on Sunday. Connecting passes were actually connecting, things looked as cohesive as they felt.
And yes, Oregon State is a winless team with a minus-eight goal differential in four games this year, but Sunday presented its own set of unique circumstances.
For one, it was the second game in three days.
“We always talk about how Friday is going to be a tough game but the real battle is coming on Sunday when both teams have been playing on Friday,” Miramontez said. “The fact that we could come out on Sunday with a high intensity and have a result like that speaks volumes of our team culture.”
For another, there was an hour-long rain delay that broke up the first 34 minutes of the first half and the last 11. Halftime was shortened to just an eight-minute intermission to make up for time lost. Nebraska had built a 2-0 lead by that point. Anything could have happened in those 11 minutes that would have completely changed the complexion of the game had the Huskers not come out ready to go.
“It’s never easy going into a lightning delay because you get cold, you kind of lose focus on the game, you lose momentum and stuff like that,” Miramontez said. “Going in, we talked about how one team is going to come back out onto the field and they’re not going to be ready.
“We faced a similar situation last year against Penn State. We went in, were down 1-0, came back out, scored a goal and ended up being the game-tying score for us. We knew. We’ve been on the opposite end of that. We knew they were down and were going to come out prepared and ready to come at us, so we wanted to make sure we weren’t going to let down at all.”
They didn’t. Nebraska was able to get an entire second 11 into the game, including a backup goalkeeper. Girls that wouldn’t normally get to see the field got a chance to get some run, which also meant no one was playing a full 90 minutes.
“Those girls work so hard at practice, they are pushing and they definitely deserve to play,” Buelt said. “The talent level all across the board is just incredible and we have an amazing team that works for each other.”
Up next is No. 22 Washington State (3-0). Nebraska will host the Cougars on Friday, Aug. 31 at 7:05 p.m. but they were already on Nebraska’s mind just minutes after Sunday’s game. The Huskers lost 1-0 in Pullman, Wash., last season to a team that went on to play in a Sweet 16.
There’s confidence heading into that game, having not conceded a goal in two matches, but not too much.
“Absolutely we have confidence, we just had a great weekend, but we know Washington State is going to be a tough battle for us,” Miramontez said. “We’re definitely not overlooking them.”
It’s a “prove it” game.
“Last year we came off a lot of wins and we played Washington State and they came out more competitive,” Buelt said. “I think this year, we’ve proven that we can be the more competitive and dominant team and when we take on Washington State we’re going to prove to them who we are.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.