LINCOLN — The Nebraska women are Big Ten soccer champions, wrapping up the title Friday with a 3-1 victory against Indiana — but that wasn't the only amazing part.
With nine minutes to go and the Huskers leading 2-1, a rainbow wrapped over the Nebraska Soccer Field as NU fought off shot after shot by the Hoosiers. With a little more than five minutes to go, Nebraska goalie Emma Stevens grabbed a loose ball and lofted a routine dropkick down the left center of the field, carried by a 25- to 35-mph wind.
The spinning ball hit the slick turf beyond midfield and bounded like from a springboard over the head of Hoosier goalie Shannon Flower, who had drifted out to make a play on the ball. One more short bounce and it was in the net for an unassisted, untouched goal.
It was the first goal made by a Nebraska goalie. Players, least of all Stevens, could not remember ever seeing anything like it — she has made her mark in four years at NU stopping goals, not making them.
“It's the only goal I have ever scored,” she said. “I did not believe it.”
Said Husker defender Kylie Greischar: “We did not know what to do. I was asking, 'Does it count?' ”
Stevens and Greischar are two of six seniors who ended their regular-season careers Friday and will lead the team into the Big Ten tournament at Illinois on Wednesday. They will play the undetermined eighth-seeded team.
The conference title is Nebraska's first since 2000, when NU was in the Big 12.
Going into the match, the Huskers had allowed 19 goals in 18 matches. For the regular season, they have outscored opponents 41-20. They are rated 18th and are eighth in the NCAA's RPI, which will be used to seed teams for the NCAA 64-team tournament.
Greischar said the Huskers will approach postseason play the same way as the regular season.
“We'll take each game as it comes and push each other,” she said.
Nebraska will take a 10-1 conference record (15-3-1 overall) into the league tournament. Indiana, which finished its regular season 13-5-1, 6-5 in the league, scored its lone goal on a penalty kick early in the second half.
NU senior defender Maritza Hayes, who played 90 minutes in all three games in the last eight days, said Nebraska's defensive success is due to team chemistry.
“We all gel and work together,” Hayes said. “It's a team chemistry.”
Ari Romero, another senior defender, said every player has stepped up in the Huskers' commitment to be Big Ten champions.
“It's a team effort,” she said.
The first Nebraska goal came in the first half when senior Jordan Jackson drove the ball into the middle from the right side. Jaycie Johnson attempted a header and the ball hit the ground in perfect position for Mayme Conroy to get a clear kick to the net.
“I had time and I found an open part of the net,” the junior from Omaha Skutt said. As for the championship: “We are kind of where we expected to be. Our goal was always to be the Big Ten champions.”
A short kick by Johnson on an assist by Courtney Claassen gave NU a 2-1 lead.
Among the beaming Husker fans observing an emotional celebration at midfield following the victory was Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst.
“This was a tremendous team effort by John (Coach John Walker), his staff and a wonderful group of young women,” Eichorst said. “They were determined to improve every week. This is a culmination of that.”
Indiana (13-5-1, 6-5) ...................................... 0 1—1
At Nebraska (15-3-1, 10-1) ............................ 1 2—3
Goals: UI, Nouanesengs. NU, Conroy, Johnson, Stevens.
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Video: Nebraska wins Big Ten championship