Brenna Ochoa was able to breeze past Illinois defenders like the gusts at Hibner Stadium Sunday.
After two first-half shots on goal by Ochoa, the Nebraska senior put one in the back of the net in the 58th minute that led Nebraska (3-6-2, 2-2-0 Big Ten) to a 1-0 victory.
It was Ochoa's fourth-career goal and first of the season.
Ochoa, a Millard West grad, worked herself free at the top of the box and put her left leg into it after a pass from Kayla Mostowich, who was able to beat an Illinois defender to set up the goal.
“In the first half, I had a few shots that I should have put away,” Ochoa said. “In the second half, when I finally had my opportunity more outside of the box instead of being pressured inside the box, I just took my shot.”
Illinois (7-3-0, 1-2-0) came in as the fourth Nebraska opponent ranked in the nation's top 10 in RPI. The Illini are ranked tenth, while the Huskers have faced No. 2 Clemson, No. 6 USC and No. 8 Kansas earlier this season.
“Every Big Ten game that we can win is such a huge accomplishment,” Ochoa said. “It's a great feeling, and we are ready to go for next week.”
With the 1-0 lead intact, it came down to not making the mental mistakes late that Nebraska has suffered from all season.
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With 21:30 left in the match, Nebraska goaltender Aubrei Corder walked up past midfield on a Husker throw-in in Illinois territory and gave defender Sinclaire Miramontez directions.
“I was just trying to remind her we need to stay calm in the back (field),” Corder said. “Not get too excited and stick to our tactics. I was just trying to give her some things I see from my perspective and she took that and said 'Okay, let's go get ’em.'"
Illinois held a 10-8 shot advantage over the Huskers, but the Nebraska defenders allowed just three shots on Corder in net in the physical contest. Nebraska was charged with two yellow cards and Illinois one, all coming in the second half. Both teams finished with 13 fouls.
In the final 10 minutes, Nebraska was able to keep Illinois off balance and prevented the Illini from getting a shot on net.
“I think we were really calm. That was a big strength of ours,” Corder said. “We stayed collected and looked to our left and looked to our right and played for whoever was next to us.”
Nebraska returns to the field Thursday to face Iowa in Iowa City at 7 p.m.