Keeping track of all the sporting events in the fall semester is tough. With two of the biggest sports in Nebraska –– football and volleyball –– being in the same season, it can become confusing. And once basketball starts up, it only becomes more packed.
Here are some of the most important dates for Husker fans to know. Some schedules have not been completely released at the time of writing.
Women’s Soccer: Sept. 1 vs. Baylor
Nebraska women’s soccer is looking to build off a 9-7-5 season in 2018 and hopes to get back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016. To do so, they will have to perform well against a tough, non-conference schedule.
One of their biggest tests will come early against Baylor, which made the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament last year. The Bears finished the year ranked No. 9 in the United Soccer Coaches Poll and No. 5 in RPI. They embarrassed Nebraska last season, winning 6-0.
However, Baylor is undergoing some roster changes. The Bears are losing five seniors from their 2018 roster, including midfielder Julie James, who led the team in goals last year.
The Huskers will have a chance to avenge last year’s blowout, but it will not come without challenges. Nebraska lost five players from last year’s roster, including three seniors, but one of those players was forward and team-leading goal scorer Faith Carter. Senior midfielders Meg Brandt and Savanah Uveges will have to step up to give the Huskers a chance at the upset.
Volleyball: Sept. 18 vs. Stanford
After two consecutive national championship game appearances and four-straight national semifinals, expectations remain high for the Nebraska volleyball program. Two of the most consistent players in program history, Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney, graduated, meaning a new group of Huskers will need to produce results this year.
If the Huskers want to replicate their previous postseason success, they’ll have to vanquish the demons from last year’s title-game loss. Nebraska fell behind early to Stanford in that match but rallied late, nearly winning it all despite a series of controversial calls. Players, such as junior outside hitters Jazz Sweet and Lexi Sun along with junior middle blocker Lauren Stivrins, will be expected to lead a Husker team without a senior on its roster.
By this point in the season, the Huskers will have already played seven matches, but none loom larger than a title-game rematch against an experienced Stanford team.
Football: Sept. 28 vs. Ohio State
The Husker football team struggled much of last season in head coach Scott Frost’s first year. After starting the season 0-6, the team won four of its final six games en route to a 4-8 record. The strong finish gave the Huskers momentum into the offseason, and they have become a trendy pick to win the Big Ten West. Their first real test next season will come in this high-stakes showdown with the Buckeyes.
While a road game early in the season against the Colorado Buffaloes will be tricky, the Huskers should be 4-0 heading into this Big Ten matchup, as should Ohio State. This situation would create the biggest game of the Scott Frost era so far. A win would validate all of the preseason hype, while a loss would be history repeating itself, as the Buckeyes have won four-straight games against Nebraska dating back to 2012.
Last season, the Huskers lost a tight one in Columbus 36-31. The Huskers led that game at halftime, but the Buckeyes were overpowering in the end. This year, the Huskers will have more experience in Frost’s system and will have quarterback Adrian Martinez returning after an impressive freshman campaign. These two positives, along with it being a home game, will improve the Huskers’ chances this year.
Ohio State will have a new head coach in Ryan Day. This will be his first big game as head coach of the Buckeyes, which makes this game important to them as well. This game is sure to be a tight one and with all of the different storylines, it has the potential to be a game for the ages.
Women’s Soccer: Oct. 27 vs. Penn State
The last game of Nebraska soccer’s regular season could possibly be the biggest. Penn State made the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament last season and finished the year ranked No. 8.
Penn State also had the best record in the Big Ten last year and placed second in the Big Ten Tournament, falling to Minnesota on penalty kicks in the championship game.
The Nittany Lions’ roster remains strong as they return their top three goal scorers from last season.
However, the Huskers won’t likely be intimidated because they beat Penn State 1-0 on the road last year behind a penalty kick goal from Savanah Uveges. This time around, Nebraska will also have a home-field advantage.
Since the matchup is the last game of Nebraska’s regular season, it could be a key game for determining Big Ten Tournament seeding if the Huskers have a successful season up to that point.
Men’s Basketball: Nov. 5 vs. UC Riverside
For Nebraska men’s basketball, the opponent might just be the least important thing about this game.
This matchup will be the season and home-opener for Nebraska, but more importantly, it will mark the official start of the Fred Hoiberg era. Former head coach Tim Miles was fired after last season, opening the door for Hoiberg to become the next head coach.
Since Hoiberg’s hiring, the Huskers have quickly begun to rebuild. For starters, the roster will look completely different. Nebraska only returns two players, junior guards Dachon Burke Jr. and Thorir Thorbjarnarson. Burke sat out last season due to transfer rules, meaning Thorbjarnarson is the only player on the roster who saw minutes for the Huskers last year. The rest of the roster is entirely made up of transfers and 2019 recruits.
Nebraska basketball has more questions than answers going into next season, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Since the roster and coaching staff is so new, the team might get off to a rough start as they get used to their new surroundings. However, the Huskers also have a clean slate as nothing from the past few seasons can be used to determine how this team will fare in 2019. Every single player has an equal chance to fight for a spot in the rotation and make their mark.
The first game of the season will clear up a lot of the questions that currently surround the team, making it a must-watch game for fans curious about the immediate future of Nebraska basketball.
Volleyball: Nov. 22 at Minnesota
The Gophers were the best in the Big Ten last season, as they went 19-1 in conference play, four games ahead of third-placing Nebraska. Minnesota had it out for Nebraska, beating the Huskers in both of the team’s matchups. Since 2015, Nebraska has gone 2-4 against the Gophers, and a win in the teams’ only 2019 matchup would be a big boost in the conference standings.
The Gophers lost some key pieces of their conference-winning team but will still pose a tough challenge on the road. By this point in the season, with just four games left to play, Nebraska’s newcomers should have an established place in the team. With six freshmen on the roster (Nicole Drewnick, Emma Gabel, Kenzie Knuckles, Madi Kubik, Fallon Stutheit and Riley Zuhn), multiple first-year players will be expected to contribute.
If all goes as planned for the Huskers, they should be competing for a Big Ten title and attempting to secure a top seed in the NCAA Tournament by this point. With this likely being the toughest game they will play ahead of the postseason, a victory here should help keep the Huskers focused and looking good for another deep tournament run.
Football: Nov. 29 vs. Iowa
The annual Black Friday game has lost some of its luster for Nebraska fans in recent years. A game that used to be played against Oklahoma, and later Colorado, had national implications almost every season. Now, as the Huskers have steadily fallen out of national relevance, the game has followed suit. This season, however, could be the most important Big Ten, Black Friday game yet.
Iowa and Nebraska come in as two of the favorites to win the Big Ten West. Wisconsin is also a favorite, but its schedule does them no favors as it draws Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State as its crossover games. Minnesota and Purdue could also be sleepers, but it may be too early to tell.
This sets up a potential Nebraska-Iowa Black Friday game for the Big Ten West title. Even if it isn’t, it will be an intensely competitive game. The Hawkeyes have gotten the better of the Huskers since they joined the Big Ten. They hold a 5-3 advantage over the Huskers, as well as winning the last four games of the series.
If there is a year to end that streak, it’s this one. Last year’s game ended with a last-second field goal, and this one could too.