Let’s start with the bad news: Head coach John Walker and his Nebraska soccer program are facing arguably the most difficult schedule in the country in 2019.
The Huskers, selected to finish seventh in the Big Ten Coaches Preseason Poll, face sides that made the 2018 NCAA Tournament in 10 of their 18 regular-season matches. Two of Nebraska’s matches feature teams that made it to the Elite Eight in Baylor and Penn State, the defending Big Ten regular-season champion.
With a schedule this difficult, the Huskers cannot afford to start slow and bring a bad record into conference play. That may be difficult, however, as Nebraska’s first five matches are against 2018 NCAA Tournament teams.
Despite the challenges that a difficult schedule brings, Walker is excited for the opportunity to be tested against the best teams in the country.
“The 2019 schedule is both exciting and very challenging,” Walker said in an interview via Huskers.com. “I believe our players enjoy playing this type of nationally competitive schedule, and it will definitely improve us as a team and each player individually.”
Now, for the good news. The Huskers have the talent to keep up with the bluebloods of women’s college soccer. Despite the graduation of last season’s leading scorer Faith Carter, who had nine goals, the team returns 18 of 23 letterwinners from last year.
Defensively, Nebraska returns two key pieces in senior goalkeeper Aubrei Corder and senior defender Sinclaire Miramontez. Corder has provided a steady presence in the goal for the past three seasons, starting in every game she’s played in for the Huskers. Last season, Corder recorded 56 saves and notched five individual shutouts.
Miramontez, who started 17 games last season before suffering a season-ending ACL injury, is perhaps the most decorated player on Nebraska’s roster. The Lenexa, Kansas, native was named First Team All-Big Ten in 2017 and 2018, was named to the First Team United Soccer Coaches All-North Region in 2018 and has trained with the U.S. Women’s Youth National Team on three separate occasions.
The accolades kept rolling in for Miramontez this offseason, as she was selected to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List for the 2019 season. The trophy is awarded to the best player in women’s college soccer. Additionally, Miramontez was named to the Preseason Big Ten Honors List for the third consecutive season.
In the midfield, the Huskers are anchored by a pair of seniors in Meg Brandt and Brenna Ochoa. Ochoa played a significant role in 2018, starting all 21 games and playing 1,949 minutes, the second-most on the team. She contributed heavily in Nebraska’s attack, recording eight assists, which tied for the highest mark in the Big Ten.
Brandt, an Ankeny, Iowa, native, started all 21 games for the Huskers in 2018 and recorded three goals and three assists. Like Miramontez, Brandt has also spent time with the U.S. Women’s Youth National Team and is on the Preseason Big Ten Honors List.
Senior forward Savanah Uveges, the third and final Husker named to the Preseason Big Ten Honors List, returns after a year in which she scored eight goals for Nebraska — the second-highest on the team. Uveges looks to pace Nebraska’s offense and build on a 2018 season which earned her Third Team All-Big Ten honors.
Despite being a senior-led team, the Huskers are bringing in six new freshmen to the 2019 squad. Nebraska will look for freshman Marissa Popoola, the 2019 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year, to lead the charge and contribute heavily during her time in Lincoln.
While Nebraska’s 2019 schedule is challenging, it’s clear the Huskers have the talent to compete with some of the best teams in the country. At the very least, the Huskers will be well prepared and have the talent to make some noise in conference play and the conference tournament.