The Nebraska soccer team is feeling like it can beat anyone after rallying twice to reach the Big Ten championship game.
So is Iowa, the Huskers’ opponent in Sunday’s 1 p.m. match at the University of Illinois.
“Right now, we can accomplish anything,” senior Kylie Greischar said.
The Hawkeyes will be playing for their first tournament title in school history. Nebraska last made it to a league title match in 2002, when it was in the Big 12.
Neither team had an easy time in the semifinals. The Huskers came from behind to beat Indiana 3-1 while Iowa edged No. 20 Penn State 1-0.
“Both teams are playing very hard and with heart,” Hawkeye coach Ron Rainey said. “I think it will be a fun championship.”
While few may have expected Iowa to be in the final, Rainey said there’s been so many close matches this season that he thought it could be anyone’s tournament.
“I think it’s kind of played out that way,” he said. “(Friday’s) games were both really competitive.”
It was close, too, when NU edged Iowa 2-1 Oct. 3, winning on an own goal.
Rainey said the Huskers have a tough defense and strong goalkeeper in senior Emma Stevens. Their offense isn’t too bad, either.
“They come at you in waves,” he said. “You have to be ready to defend a lot of players, because they do such a good job in the attack.”
The Hawkeyes’ win Friday gave them their school-record 10th shutout.
They had to beat Purdue to make it into the tournament as the seventh seed, then knocked off second seed Michigan and defending champion Penn State.
Greischar said the Hawkeyes are a very physical team that likes to win balls in the middle.
“It’s a big kind of rivalry,” she said. “I think they are confident going into this game. They have nothing to lose.”
Jaycie Johnson, who scored twice for NU on Friday, said she doesn’t think nerves will get to the Huskers like they did in the semifinals. NU was jittery and nervous in the first half, she said, before calming down after talking at halftime.
“I think the nerves have settled and calmed,” Johnson said. “We’re fine, we’ll be relaxed. We have the mindset that we have to play our game and we’ll win.”
Johnson said NU’s defense, which has allowed 22 goals, could be the key Sunday.
“It will take a lot for them to break our defense down,” she said.
Fatigue could be a factor, Rainey said, with both teams having to play three matches in five days. The team that cuts down on its mistakes will win, the coach said.
“Control the controlables,” he said. “We have to go out and play hard on Sunday and have fun. If we do that, it will be a good game.”
Johnson said it’s a great feeling to make the title match as a freshman. She said she’ll do whatever it takes to pull out a win Sunday, as will her teammates.
“I’m excited to see what comes for us on Sunday,” she said. “Hopefully, we can get the win.”