Grace Brown File Photo

Grace Brown (27) attacks the ball against Purdue defender during the game at Barbara Hibner Soccer Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A mere 10 minutes into the game, Northwestern junior forward Olivia Stone was bursting down the wing. Her opposite, Nebraska sophomore forward Marissa Popoola, was forced to track back and assume defensive duties for the match.

Popoola was beaten easily for pace by the veteran Stone, and the ball was driven down just beyond the penalty spot. The Nebraska back line, two center backs and a wingback pushed far inside, are left marking a single forward, and the two Nebraska midfielders neglect to check the bursting run forward of Northwestern senior midfielder Regan Steigleder. Steigleder finished the chance into the top right corner, punishing an all-around poor defensive performance for the first goal of the game.

Despite averaging less than a goal per game before entering the match, the Wildcats had gone up 3-0 by halftime and finished the game a dominating 4-0 victor.

Going into the match, Nebraska was on a poor run of form, having only gained a single point in its last three games. This included a 3-1 loss to Illinois, where the Fighting Illini managed nine more shots than the Huskers, and an overtime loss to Michigan where the Wolverines took 11 more shots.

Much of the Huskers’ defensive problems came in their wild and erratic pressing, which lurched players forward and left space open for the counterattack. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the Wildcats’ second goal, where a rare reprieve downfield for Nebraska resulted in no less than five players committing to a press on Northwestern’s back line.

As a result, a simple ball to Stone taken down at the top of Nebraska’s defense resulted in an overcommitment by senior defender Grace Brown, thus opening up a through ball opportunity for Wildcat sophomore forward Aurea Martin.

One-on-one with sophomore goalkeeper Makinzie Short, Short read Martin’s intentions well, providing enough time to allow the defense a goal-line stand. However, after rounding Nebraska’s keeper, the Husker defense could not stop Martin from tapping the ball into the back of the net .

Unfortunately, on the stroke of halftime, the Huskers once again were found without concentration. This time a corner was taken short out to the top of the box, and resulted in a long, looping cross right in front of goal. After Nebraska failed to win the header, the ball dropped to the right, down to Northwestern sophomore defender Danika Austin.

Austin managed a perfectly weighted first-time cross off the inside of her boot, a ball that was angled to senior midfielder Madi Kennel. The header caught out the goalline defender in Brown, and Short, overcommitted to her left, was unable to react in time to make the save.

Nebraska ended the half with only one shot, coming from junior attacking midfielder Dakota Chan. 

Northwestern turned down the intensity in the second half, only managing two shots. Nebraska, also, was unable to mount a comeback.

The last goal of the game came solely due to a Northwestern high press that had found some success, though no end product, early in the match. Brown, in her own box, weighted a pass too heavily for her center back partner in junior defender Olivia Brown. 

Brown, closed down by two forwards, was unable to manage a pass out to her wing back, and the intercepted pass was eventually bungled into the net. The goal was given to Martin.

Nebraska returns home on Thursday to face Rutgers, a team that has won six of its eight games this season.