Nebraska soccer has been nothing short of a shocker this season.
In the latest RPI rankings released Monday, the Huskers checked in at No. 17 in the country. It's the highest mark of any Big Ten school because, surprise, Nebraska is currently leading the Big Ten.
The Huskers sit atop the table with 14 points, an 8-3-3 record overall and a 4-0-2 record in the conference, all after finishing 2017 3-3-5 in league play.
Postseason play in college soccer is similar to basketball; 64 teams make it into the NCAA Tournament, winner takes it all. From 1996-2006, Nebraska made the tournament every season, but since, it has only appeared twice with the most recent trip coming in 2016. The Huskers are well on their way to another tournament berth.
So, let's take a look at how the Huskers got to this point and what's next.
How We Got Here
>> It's been an up-and-down ride so far. Nebraska began its season unbeaten through the first four games. It trailed in the season-opener at Oklahoma 1-0 for the first 86 minutes before scoring twice in the final four. Midfielder Brenna Ochoa netted the game-winner off a set piece from 20 yards away in the 89th minute. The Huskers followed that up with a 2-2 draw at home against BYU, a 2-0 win over Oregon and a 3-0 win over Oregon State in the span of a week.
>> Then the down. Nebraska held a halftime lead over a ranked Washington State squad on Aug. 31, but gave up two second-half goals for its first loss of the season. The team then went on the road and lost 6-0 at Baylor and 3-1 at Duke. The Huskers held a halftime lead against Duke as well.
>> NU has been on a high since and it started in Raleigh, North Carolina, with a 2-1 win over a ranked NC State team. A draw with Rutgers to open conference play preceded two overtime wins over Maryland (2-1) and Indiana (4-3). In both, senior striker Faith Carter supplied the game-winning goals within the first two minutes of extra time. Nebraska then ripped off back-to-back 1-0 shutouts of Purdue at home and Penn State on the road before drawing with Ohio State 1-1 in Columbus on Sunday.
>> Carter leads the Huskers in scoring this season, and the Big Ten for that matter, with eight goals. Still, scoring has been mostly a collective effort this year. Midfielder Savanah Uveges has seven goals herself and six other Huskers have at least one goal. Ochoa leads the team with five assists, but Uveges has four to her name and midfielder Meg Brandt has three.
>> Goalkeeper Aubrei Corder is in the midst of a career year in the net for the Huskers. She has started all 14 games and tallied 38 saves on the season and four clean sheets. Against the Nittany Lions, Corder logged a career-high nine saves. She has climbed to third on the Huskers' career leaderboard for shutouts (21) and fourth for saves (169).
>> As the season has progressed, two freshmen have worked their way into starting roles for head coach John Walker. Winger Dakota Chan and central midfielder Kenzie Coons have both appeared in every game this year, with Chan making 10 starts and Coons making her way into the starting 11 for the last five matches.
>> The Huskers have wins over two teams currently ranked in the top 25 nationally: No. 12 NC State and No. 22 Oregon. Baylor has moved to No. 9 nationally, helping soften the only blemish on the Huskers' resume. Washinton State is 10-0 on the season and ranked No. 23.
>> The Huskers have five games left this season before the Big Ten Tournament begins on Oct. 28. Four of the five come at home. The Huskers host Iowa (ranked 131 in RPI) on Friday at 7:05 p.m. CT.
>> Following the meeting with the Hawkeyes, the Huskers play Michigan (No. 66) at home on Oct. 12, Michigan State (No. 123) at home on Oct. 14, Wisconsin (No. 33) on the road on Oct. 18 and a Senior Day game against Illinois (No. 51) on Oct. 21. The Huskers are 4-1-1 at home this year.
>> The Big Ten Tournament runs from Oct. 28 through Nov. 4 with the final four based out of Westfield, Indiana. The top eight teams in the conference earn spots. Nebraska will likely host its quarterfinal game but still has some work to do before locking that in. The Huskers lead Rutgers (3-0-2 in the Big Ten) on the conference table by three points having played one more game as of publication. Five points is all that separates them from two schools tied for fifth — Penn State and Wisconsin.
>> The 64-team NCAA Tournament field is set on Nov. 5. First-round action begins on Nov. 9. The Women's College Cup begins Nov. 30 with the National Championship on Dec. 2. Nebraska's best finish in the tournament is the Elite Eight
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.