Senior days are to be remembered and a loss can mar an otherwise special day. Luckily for the Nebraska soccer team, they’ll get a second chance at a win on their senior day due to a makeup game because Sunday’s match against Illinois was a frustrating endeavor from the start.
The Illini grabbed the lead less than three minutes into the match and carried it until the final whistle to roll to a 2-1 victory in the Huskers’ penultimate regular season home match at Barbara Hibner Stadium.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where Wednesday is a game we definitely need to win and there were things in that game we wish we could take back,” senior defender Caroline Buelt said. “We played well in the second half, but the first half just wasn’t maximal enough. Like (Coach John Walker) said the team that played better won, but I think if we play them again, we win.”
The early Illinois goal was facilitated by a misplayed ball on the Huskers’ backline that allowed Kelly Maday to find Makena Sibler in the box for the opening goal. The two teams battled over the next 20 minutes for the next goal that would define the game and it was the Illini who broke through in the 23rd minute. Morgan Maroney stole a pass from the Huskers’ backline and found Maday, who slotted it into the back of the net to give Illinois a 2-0 lead.
It was clear throughout the match the Huskers missed junior defender Sinclaire Miramontez, who had previously started every match over the past three seasons. Miramontez sustained a knee injury on Thursday against Wisconsin that will sideline her for the rest of the season.
“Losing Sinclaire (Miramontez) is clearly a hit, but it’s something that isn’t an excuse,” Buelt said. “You lose great players all the time. It just means that everyone has to raise their level and communication has to go up. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, but we still have this season.”
The Huskers got one back in the 64th minute when a Brenna Ochoa free kick twisted into the box and found Faith Carter’s head in the box. The header snuck in the near post to cut the Nebraska deficit to one, but it ended up being the Huskers' lone goal against a fortified Illinois backline.
“Their defenders were really on us, the pressure was immediate, which was pretty hard today,” Carter said. “They made it really difficult.”
The assist from Ochoa moved her into a tie at the top of the Big Ten leaderboard with seven on the season while Carter’s goal was her ninth of the season, a team high.
Buelt and Carter were two of five seniors celebrating their Senior Day on Sunday. Michaela Loebel, Lauren Smith and Savanah Uveges also were honored.
The seniors will get another chance to go out with a win on Wednesday when Nebraska hosts Michigan State at noon.