LINCOLN — With a shutout in sight, Nebraska senior goalkeeper Emma Stevens limped and watched from the sideline for the last 20 minutes Friday as her teammates closed a 1-0 victory against Ohio State at Nebraska Soccer Field.
It was the Huskers’ third shutout in four games and eighth victory in a tight Big Ten title race.
The Huskers lead the league at 8-1 going into a key home match at 1 p.m. Sunday against Penn State. The Nittany Lions dropped to 6-3 in the conference after Friday night’s 3-2 loss at Iowa.
Stevens, who was named Big Ten defensive player of the week last week, took a knee to her thigh midway through the second half. She toughed it out temporarily, hoping the bruise would loosen up.
But she gave way with 20:44 remaining to freshman Kelly Schatz, who has played in two games but preserved the shutout.
“Every time she’s come in, she’s made big saves,” assistant coach Peter Underwood said.
Schatz made a diving stop of an on-goal shot from the left with 14 minutes to go.
“Kelly has never shown any sign of not being up for the occasion,” Underwood said.
Stevens said she will use ice and heat to get her injured thigh ready for Sunday’s game.
“I’ll be ready,” Stevens said.
Nebraska’s only goal came with 20:46 remaining in the first half on a pass from senior Kylie Greischar to Mayme Conroy in front of the net. Conroy, a junior forward from Omaha Skutt, used a header to loft the ball into the net outside of the reach of keeper Jillian McVicker.
Conroy said she had similar opportunities in recent games that sailed high over the net.
“This week’s focus was on keeping it low,” she said.
The Huskers managed to keep Ohio State out of the net in the second half, even though the Buckeyes had 12 shots on goal compared to two for Nebraska.
Sophomore forward Katie Kraeutner said the win was a credit to Nebraska’s teamwork.
“Our team put in a lot of hard effort, both the starters and players coming off the bench,” she said. “Everybody made a huge contribution.”
The 21st-ranked Huskers, who ran their overall record to 13-3-1, will have their stiffest remaining Big Ten test against 16th-ranked Penn State.
Stevens said the Nittany Lions will be a challenge.
“They are a good team, a tough team,” she said.
The Nittany Lions, who have the NCAA’s fourth-best RPI compared to NU at No. 12, have won the past 15 Big Ten titles.
Nebraska will have one other home game against Indiana next Friday before preparing for the Big Ten tournament that starts Nov. 6.
The Huskers remain atop the Big Ten standings with 24 points. Michigan, the only team to defeat NU in conference play this season, is in second with 22.
Ohio State (9-5-3, 3-4-2) .......... 0 0—0
At Nebraska (13-3-1, 8-1-0) ..... 1 0—1
Goals: NU, Conroy.