As the weekend matches came to an end for the Big Ten women’s soccer teams on Sunday, Nebraska could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Following the conclusion of Sunday’s matches, the Huskers had guaranteed themselves a spot in the Big Ten tournament with a 4-6-0 conference record.
“It is nice to have that comfort of knowing we did well enough to get that spot in the tournament,” junior forward Stacy Bartels said.
Right now, Nebraska is sitting tied for seventh with Indiana in the standings. Indiana automatically qualified for the tournament as the host school, leaving room for the top seven other teams in the Big Ten to qualify for the tournament.
Although there is still one more game remaining for all the Big Ten teams next weekend, the Huskers are far enough ahead of the four teams behind them to clinch that tournament spot. Iowa, Purdue, Michigan State and Northwestern are all sitting at only two conference wins each and would not be able to catch up to Nebraska’s four wins with only one conference game remaining.
Even though the Huskers know they have a spot in the tournament, that doesn’t mean they have time to rest just yet with one more game remaining against Minnesota on Friday.
“I think it’s very important for us to win on Friday to put us in good position for the Big Ten tournament,” Bartels said.
With the tournament starting next week, the Huskers will be looking to not just rest heading into the tournament, but play at the best level they can.
“I don’t think it brings us a sense of relief exactly as it just makes us more hungry to go to the tournament and redeem ourselves for some of our losses this year,” junior defender Maritza Hayes said.
Although they are still looking to finish the season strong, there is still a sense of relief for the Huskers with getting into the Big Ten tournament this year after not doing so last season.
Coming into this season, the Huskers had a very young squad. With the transfer of All-American forward Morgan Marlborough and senior forward Jordan Jackson being injured for most of the season it seemed as if it might be a daunting task for the Huskers to think about making the tournament.
But despite these individual losses, both Hayes and Bartels said one of the contributing factors to the Huskers having success this year is that they have been able to come together more as a team, something that they failed to do last season.
“I think just at the beginning of the year we sat down and talked about what kind of team we wanted to be,” Hayes said. “We said we wanted to be the team that played for each other. I think that’s just helped us to realize what our goals were and strive for that.”
Bartels also said she believes part of the success for the Huskers this year has been their ability to win critical games on the road – three of the four Big Ten victories for Nebraska have been on the road.
With these factors that have brought success to the Huskers this season, they believe they have shown signs of improvement necessary in the Big Ten tournament.
“From the beginning of the season to where we are now we are a lot better,” Hayes said.