Welcome to Episode 30 of the Prep Extra Podcast presented by The Lincoln Journal Star.
OMAHA — Last year at this time Chace Hutchison was a soccer journalist.
But now he’s got a different view of the sport and is at the controls of one of the top high school soccer programs in the state as the Gretna girls head coach.
Hutchison has kept the defending state champs rolling along just fine during his first season. Class A No. 1-ranked Gretna is back in the state championship match after beating No. 4 Lincoln Southwest 3-0 on Friday in the state semifinals at Morrison Stadium.
Gretna (20-0) was dominating from start to finish against the Silver Hawks. Gretna led in shots 20-1.
Gretna opened the scoring 34 minutes into the match scored by junior Ava Makovicka. The goal came after a corner kick. Southwest couldn’t get the ball cleared and Makovicka scored on a straight-on shot from about 12 yards for a 1-0 lead.
About nine minutes into the second half, Gretna extended its lead to 2-0 when Allison Marshall beat the Southwest goalie one-on-one on a quick breakaway.
The final goal came in the final five minutes of the match, scored by Julia Witt.
After Gretna won state last season, coach Digger Hawkins wasn’t brought back as head coach. Hutchison is a history teacher at Gretna and got the job.
Most of his previous experience was as a club soccer coach since he was in college. He was an assistant coach at Papillion-La Vista South during the COVID-19 season.
Hutchison didn’t coach in high school last spring. Instead, he helped run Nebraska Soccer Talk, a website, social media account and podcast covering soccer in the state. Hutchison did interviews with players and coaches.
“I was just trying to stay ready if the opportunity came, and it did,” he said.
Hutchison got a coaching job at a school with a strong tradition in the sport and a lot of students who have played club soccer.
“It’s a blessing,” Hutchison said. “Normally when you get a first-time head job, you’re trying to build a program. That wasn’t the case here. It was maintain, and see if we can build it up even more as a unit. And I’m incredibly grateful for the girls because they accepted me right away and they listened to our playing style and how we want to do things and our standards. It’s a blessing. There’s pressure, but that’s what we want. You don’t want to be in a soccer environment where no one cares whether you win or lose.”
Gretna being unbeaten this season is impressive after the Dragons graduated Sarah Weber, who scored a Class A record 48 goals last season and now plays for Nebraska.
Gretna has depth that no program in the state can match. On Friday, Gretna regularly subbed in several players at the same time. About 20 players logged at least 10 minutes in the match.
“You got to play the roster that you have, and luckily we’re 24 deep,” Hutchison said “And in weather like this, especially the change from last week to this week, you got to use that depth. And our drop-off from our second line is minimal if there is one.”
Each of Gretna’s five goals scored at the state tournament has come from a different player, and 19 players have scored this season.
“We’re going to take advantage of having so many talented players in the program,” Hutchison said.
Gretna’s depth helped it be relentless when Southwest attempted to build its attack.
“I thought Gretna played simple and physical,” Lincoln Southwest coach Thomas Nettleton said. “I think their pressure just got our eyes to drop on the ball instead of looking at options, and that happened everywhere on the field.”
Southwest suffered a setback early in the match when senior Kayla Hassler suffered an injury. She had 10 goals this season.
Nettleton is grateful for the four seniors who helped the Silver Hawks (14-3) advance one round further at state than last season.
“They got us back on schedule in terms of getting to Morrison (Stadium), and then having success,” he said.
Photos: Lincoln Southeast girls win thrilling shootout to advance to final; Southwest falls in semis