It's amazing how much more fun a season can be when you have a six-game winning streak and a No. 23 national ranking.
“It's so exciting,” Nebraska soccer player Jordan Jackson said. “It's definitely a different confidence, a different energy and a different work ethic.”
The Huskers are 8-2-1, their most wins since 2010. Their winning streak is the longest since 2004. Their National Soccer Coaches Association ranking is their first since 2005. At 3-0-0 in the Big Ten, they share the league lead with No. 7 Penn State.
It adds up to a more confident team of players who believe in each other, Jackson said.
The senior forward from Overland Park, Kan., said hard work and an experienced lineup have played parts in NU's improvement. Young players have also been contributing, with several scoring goals. NU also changed its lifting and conditioning programs.
“The difference,” Jackson said, “is we're executing what we've been practicing, and we're really finishing off our chances.”
Last year, when the Huskers went 7-12-1, they missed those opportunities. Some games came down to a 1-0 finish, and others were lost in the final minutes.
That's what happened last season against Michigan, the Huskers' opponent at 1 p.m. Sunday at the NU Soccer Complex. The Wolverines scored the game winner with seconds remaining in the second overtime.
The Huskers hope to avoid that fate this time against No. 21 Michigan, which is 7-2-1 and 1-1-1 in the Big Ten. The Wolverines have outscored their opponents 20-6, and goalie Taylor Bucklin has a 0.50 goals-against average.
Before that game, the first Top 25 match in Lincoln since 2003, NU will try to extend its winning streak at 4 p.m. Thursday against visiting Iowa. The Huskers have won five straight against the Hawkeyes, including a 2-1 overtime victory last year. This season, Iowa is off to a 9-2-0 start, 1-2 in the league.
“Both are known to be very good teams,” Jackson said. “Iowa is super aggressive. They are always a hard team against us. Michigan is in the top 25, so that's going to be a hard game. It's going to be a hard weekend.”
Still, the Huskers aren't flinching, not with the whole team playing better.
“It's just clicking for us,” Jackson said.