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Nebraska’s Abbey Schwarz (6) attempts a shot during the match against Illinois at Hibner Stadium on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

After a dominant 4-0 victory over the No. 25 Ohio State in front of a season-high 1,519 fans at Hibner Stadium, Nebraska soccer advances to the semifinals to take on Michigan State on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio. 

Nebraska's win over the Buckeyes was the second-largest margin of victory in Big Ten Tournament history, behind Illinois’ defeat of Northwestern 5-0 in 2004. 

Thursday's game will be the first matchup of the year between the two teams.Their last meeting, on Sept. 30, 2021, ended in a 2-2 draw. The goal scorers for the Huskers in that matchup were then-freshman midfielder Haley Peterson and then-freshman forward Abbey Schwarz. 

Though momentum is high for Nebraska, its job is far from finished. Michigan State will easily be the Huskers’ toughest opponent this season and will provide the ultimate test. The Spartans enter with an impressive 15-1-3 record, losing only to then-No. 11 Arkansas, 1-0. In Big Ten play, the Spartans finished 9-0-1, with their lone tie ending 0-0 against Iowa, who defeated Nebraska 4-0 in its final game of the regular season. The Huskers, conversely, finished 8-6-5 overall and 5-3-2 in Big Ten play. 

The Big Ten-leading Spartans defeated the eighth-seeded Minnesota in their quarterfinal game 2-1 on Sunday. The Golden Gophers scored first, but Michigan State quickly bounced back and scored two unanswered goals, which would prove enough to come out with the win and advance to the semifinals. 

One of Michigan State’s biggest standouts is senior forward Lauren DeBeau. She leads the team in goals, and is tied for second in the Big Ten, with ten. She also leads in points with a stately 23. Another Spartan weapon is sophomore Jordyn Wickes. Although she isn’t a starter, she produced both Spartan goals against the Gophers and has a total of seven goals on the season. 

Spartan goaltender Lauren Kozal has had an outstanding year as well. She holds a 15-1-3 record, having started all 19 games this season. Kozal notched 53 saves on the year and has allowed only eight goals. Her impressive stats tie Michigan State for second place in the NCAA in goals allowed with only UCLA being ahead of them seven goals allowed. 

The biggest standouts for the Huskers have been junior forward Eleanor Dale, who had two goals in the Huskers’ quarterfinals win, and sophomore midfielder Sarah Weber. The latter is tied for second in the Big Ten in goals with ten of her own and sealed Nebraska’s win against Ohio State, extending its lead to 4-0 in the 63rd minute. If she continues to play with a fast-paced intensity, Michigan State may struggle to stop her.

Another x-factor for the Huskers is junior goaltender Sami Hauk, who had a remarkable performance in the quarterfinal win. The win over the Buckeyes marked Nebraska’s fifth shutout of the season and Hauk’s eighth career win. She’ll have a tougher task slowing down a Spartan offense that ranks second in the Big Ten in goals. 

Though the Huskers were the more inexperienced team, their youth played no role in their performance against a more experienced Ohio State team. If Nebraska is able to play to the level it showed against the Buckeyes, the Huskers have a fighter’s chance to pull off a massive upset against the Spartans. Do so, and they could very well bring home their first Big Ten Tournament championship since 2013 and be on their way to clinching a trip to the NCAA Tournament. 

sports@dailynebraskan.com