CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Nebraska overcame a shaky first half Friday to defeat Indiana 3-1 at the Big Ten women’s soccer tournament, earning the Huskers a spot in the league championship game.
Top-seeded Nebraska will play Iowa at 1 p.m. Sunday in a match that will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
The seventh-seeded Hawkeyes pulled off their second surprise of the tournament, beating defending champion and 20th-ranked Penn State 1-0 in the first semifinal Friday.
NU freshman Jaycie Johnson, who scored twice in the second half, said the Huskers came out nervous and jittery and didn’t play their game. That allowed Indiana, a team that NU beat 3-1 a week ago, to go into the break with a 1-0 lead on a goal by Bekah White.
NU keeper Emma Stevens got a piece of the shot into the upper right corner, but it found the back of the net at the 7:26 mark. Nebraska also trailed Minnesota on Thursday before pulling out a 4-1 win.
“We just needed to calm down a little and just relax,” Johnson said. “It’s a soccer game. We needed to play our game.”
Johnson said being in the Big Ten semifinals seemed to make the Huskers jumpy in the first half. They talked during the break about what they needed to do to take control — things like returning to the basics, connecting as a team and communicating better.
“We all took the feedback we all said to each other,” she said. “We were moving the ball well. It was just really good. It was a good second half.”
That’s when Johnson got going.
Jordan Jackson passed ahead to Johnson in the box and the freshman from Lake Winnebago, Mo., put it away in the upper-left corner to tie the match less than two minutes after halftime.
NU senior defender Kylie Greischar dribbled through the defense along the top of the box and fired a left-footed bouncer that found its way through the defense to give Nebraska its first lead at 2-1. It was the first goal of her collegiate career.
On the team bus afterward, she said she couldn’t even remember how she got the ball in the net. Her phone was already blowing up with texts of congratulations.
“I couldn’t even believe I scored a goal,” she said.
Johnson, the team’s scoring leader with 12 goals, chased down a great pass from Katie Kraeutner to beat the defender, dribbled by the keeper and tapped it in for a 3-1 lead. That set off a celebration that included even coach John Walker, who was doing some jumping around on the sideline.
Johnson said that was a first for the Big Ten coach of the year.
“It was good to see him celebrate and enjoy it with us,” she said. “I was happy for him.”
NU will need to replicate that second-half effort against Iowa on Sunday, the Huskers said.
Nebraska (17-3-1) beat the Hawkeyes 2-1 earlier this year. The schools are travel partners, so they are very familiar with each other’s games.
Greischar wanted to bask in the joy of Friday’s victory just a bit longer before worrying about the Hawkeyes.
“I think we’re ecstatic,” she said. “It’s one of those feelings you can’t replicate.”