Nebraska's Big Ten tournament run ended on Friday with a 2-0 loss in the Big Ten semifinals to eventual conference champion Minnesota. It learned Monday that loss officially cost Nebraska an NCAA Tournament bid.
After a 9-7-5 campaign (5-3-3 Big Ten), Nebraska's season will end in disappointing fashion.
Six Big Ten teams made the 64-squad tournament field, announced Monday afternoon, including Northwestern, a side that didn't compete in the Big Ten tournament. The Wildcats finished ninth in the conference (only the top eight schools play in the conference tournament) but jumped sixth-place Nebraska in RPI after the Huskers' loss to Minnesota.
Nebraska finished 58th in the RPI after soaring to as high as 17th in early October.
With five games to go before the conference tournament began, Nebraska stood atop the Big Ten table as well with an 8-3-3 record overall and a 4-0-2 record in the conference. A bid looked nearly automatic.
But then the offense went cold and the Huskers struggled to a 1-3-1 record to close the season.
Nebraska owns wins over two tournament sides — NC State and Big Ten regular-season champ Penn State, both on the road — as well as a conference tournament win over Ohio State in penalties.
In total, Nebraska faced nine teams that earned NCAA Tournament bids with seven of those meetings coming on the road. That schedule was highlighted by an eventual two-seed in Baylor and four-seed in Duke.
The Huskers will lose forward Faith Carter, midfielder Savanah Uveges, defender Caroline Buelt, reserve midfielder Michaela Loebel and reserve keeper Lauren Smith to graduation this offseason. Carter and Uveges were both goal-scoring machines in their final year in Lincoln. Carter finished third in the Big Ten with nine goals scored and Uveges finished tied for fourth with eight.
Still, Nebraska will return plenty in 2019. Eight underclassmen played heavy minutes for the Huskers down the stretch and eight players with at least 10 starts this season will return for 2019. Its a group that will be led by seniors-to-be in forward Meg Brandt, center mid Brenna Ochoa, center back Sinclaire Miramontez and keeper Aubrei Corder.
Midfielders Kenzie Coons and Hannah Young, both freshmen, pushed their way into the starting eleven as the season wore on thanks to their play. Freshman winger Dakota Chan started 12 games before a foot injury forced her out of the lineup near mid-season. Freshman Olivia Brown replaced Miramontez on the back line for the final four games after a knee injury forced Miramontez out. Sophomore wingback Grace Brown was one of only five Huskers to start every game this season.
Four of those five ladies are returning. Eight Huskers at least appeared in all 21 games, six return. If not for Miramontez's injury, she would have started every game as well.
Goal-scoring will be a question mark for the team heading into next season, as the Huskers relied on Carter and Uveges for points, but there's plenty of reason for optimism. With experience coming back to a team that has youth all over the pitch, Nebraska is poised for another strong season in 2019.
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.