Freshman forward Reagan Raabe burst through the Iowa Hawkeyes’ back line with 23 minutes left in the first half, controlling a lofted ball that landed down near the edge of the box.
Out to the left, junior midfielder Kenzie Coons was free, the Iowa wingback having been pushed all the way in to account for Raabe’s run. Coons loaded up and took a shot to the right corner of the goal.
The shot was saved, batted away by freshman goalkeeper Macy Enneking. Unfortunately for Iowa, the ball dropped kindly for freshman forward Gwen Lane, who snuck into the space just in front of the most recessed Iowa defender. Instinctively off the left foot she tapped the ball into the back of the net and, in doing so, won Nebraska the game 67 minutes later to close the season at home.
“Our coach really emphasizes us crouching the net, as forwards, and getting behind the back line,” Lane said postgame. “When I saw my teammate take that shot I knew I had to be somewhere between those posts.”
Iowa, a team that made the NCAA tournament in the 2019-20 season, saw significant roster turnover in the offseason. This turned a conference hopeful into a bottom dweller, one that went winless in its first seven games.
Some of those fortunes, however, turned around going into the game against the Huskers. The Hawkeyes managed wins against both Maryland and Purdue, two struggling teams, but victories nevertheless.
The Huskers, on the other hand, started the season brighter than their recent form may imply. In the last six games, Nebraska lost four and drew two. Nebraska played conference leaders Rutgers and Penn State in that listing but there’d been little joy for the Huskers in recent weeks.
Other than the goal, the first half was relatively even. Nebraska managed one more shot over Iowa, and also managed four more shots on target. Though attacking less overall, the quality of chance was higher for the home side.
“A lot of the shots were from distance, so we were okay with those shots,” senior defender Grace Brown said postgame. “After that, we were looking to alleviate pressure.”
Brown was the anchor of a stout defensive performance to end the game. While head coach John Walker has experimented plenty with the wing backs on either end of Brown’s defensive line, one constant has been junior defender Olivia Brown. The two as a center back pair have played a number of years together, and that understanding helped win the game, according to Grace Brown.
“We’ve been together for a long time now. I feel like we know what each other are gonna do, so we have cover,” Brown said. “I have confidence when I’m going in and stepping in, and I know she trusts me to step in for her.”
Much of the second half, Nebraska played behind the ball. It faced 15 shots from the Hawkeyes, while on the other end, the Huskers only managed one.
Of Iowa’s chances, the best came in the 80th minute. Following a rather tame shot outside the box by an Iowa midfielder, a deflection set up a Hawkeyes corner. The ball then was floated to the back post, where three Husker defenders and one Iowa attacker were stationed.
Despite the numbers disadvantage, Iowa junior midfielder Hailey Rydberg met the ball well and angled it towards the goal. The Huskers tend to pack the line during corners, and junior midfielder Dakota Chan was present to try and head the ball away. Due to Chan’s placement, it was impossible for sophomore goalkeeper Makinzie Short to reach the ball.
Thankfully for the Huskers, Chan did her part and cleared the ball, finishing off the chance. It was one of Iowa’s best opportunities in the game, and Nebraska stood tall.
“We have front post, back post players there for a reason. So she did her job and it was a big relief to see her on the line and turn it around,” Brown said. “It was a really good feeling once we got it out of bounds.”
When the final whistle blew, after a grueling last stand, the Huskers snatched away a victory in its usual style: smash and grab. After grabbing the goal, the team locked up shop and hardly gave Iowa a good opportunity beyond Chan’s header off the line.
As a coda to a Big Ten career, one thing Brown appreciated was the weather, some of the finest all season.
“I couldn’t have asked for better weather, a better game, for the last Big Ten regular season, so I’m super happy with the result,” Brown said.