The UNO women endured a tough break — literally — as they enter the regular season, but coach Tim Walters hopes the setback makes the Mavericks stronger in the long run.
Bailey Cascio, who led UNO in goals (seven) and points (17) last season, broke her collarbone during last Friday’s exhibition against Kansas.
“It hurts us the next couple weeks, but it’s a great opportunity for some younger players to step up and get some minutes,” the third-year coach said. “Hopefully, Bailey comes back fresh in late September, early October for the conference season. She should be fit and ready to go.”
The Mavs get going with two matches this weekend at Caniglia Field. They host Illinois State at 6 p.m. Friday before taking on Kansas State at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Even without Cascio, UNO returns an experienced team that was at its best at the end of last season. The Mavs were 3-9-1 through September before going 5-2-1 the rest of the way. The season culminated with UNO reaching the Summit League tournament for the first time, where it knocked off top-seeded South Dakota State before losing in the final.
Seven starters and 17 letterwinners are back, as well as 76.5 percent of its scoring. The defense allowed 1.38 goals per game while keeper Erin Bunker made 57 saves in 14 matches.
“I like where we’re at. I like where we are defensively,” Walters said. “I like our back four. We have a lot of leaders back there.”
UNO lost Cascio in the opening minutes against the Jayhawks, but the defense helped UNO play to a scoreless draw against a team that reached the second round of the 2018 NCAA tournament.
“At Kansas, we learned we can battle on the road and get a result,” Walters said.
Also returning for the Mavs are junior Andrea Daves, who had a team-best six assists last year, sophomore Margaret Lavigne, who as a freshman led the team in minutes, and senior Abby Meader, who missed last season with an injury.
“We’re just really excited,” Meader said. “We have a lot of returners, and we have some freshmen who will fit into the lineup well.”
Walters figures the Mavs will have their hands full this weekend. Illinois State returns 10 starters from a 10-9-2 team, while Kansas State, which plays at Creighton on Friday, brings back seven starters.