Nebraska Returns Its Top Seven Scorers From a Year Ago
By Nick Rubek • Photos by Nebraska Communications Office
Sarah Weber hates to dwell on the ones that got away.
Learning opportunities, the Nebraska sophomore calls them. And there were plenty of them during her first year of college soccer.
“Looking back I’m glad I had last year under my belt,” Weber said, “but I know there were so many times I had a chance in front of goal and missed it. I learned a ton as a player.
“I was happy with last season … I wouldn’t say that I was content.”
They are lessons and driving forces that Weber hopes come in handy in her second crack at it.
The Gretna, Nebraska, native is part of a returning core for NU that includes the top seven scorers from a season ago.
Weber is also – very proudly, she added – one of five in that group who are playing for their home state Huskers.
“It’s a talented group,” Nebraska coach John Walker said of the native Nebraskans. “It’s kind of a fun, exciting group, too. A lot of them have grown up coming to games. They have preexisting relationships.”
Preexisting accomplishments, too. Both Weber and junior Reagan Raabe – last year’s leading scorer – led prep teams to Class A state championships and were players of the year in the state during their high school careers.
Walker, who started five or six in-state players in the spring, credited the development of the sport within Nebraska for a roster that is nearly half homegrown.
“A lot of them last year played big roles,” Walker said. “We kind of expect the same, and I think that’s exciting for them.”
Added Weber: “That just kind of shows that Nebraska can produce some really good athletes that can play at the Division I level.”
It won’t take long to find out exactly what level that is.
A challenging schedule features eight of 18 matches against teams that played in last year’s NCAA tournament. Seven of the eight won a game there.
Walker sees it as the kind of slate that NU needs.
“That’s traditionally what we’ve tried to do,” he said of a tough schedule. “They’re exciting games. The goal is to get back into the NCAA tournament and contend for the Big Ten title. And the only way you’re going to achieve those things is by testing yourselves.”
Nine of the Huskers’ first 10 are at home, including nonconference clashes with Oklahoma and Arizona, as well as matches against tourney qualifiers North Carolina State and USC.
There will certainly be road tests, too. Nebraska’s first three matches away from Hibner Stadium – at Saint Louis in early September and back-to-back trips to Michigan and Purdue early in Big Ten play – all come against sides that were part of the postseason mix a year ago.
“Super, super pumped,” Weber said of the high-profile matches. “Those are the types of games that are going to push you and show you what you’re made of. We don’t get caught up in the names of the teams, though. When you get into the game, it’s 11 v 11.”
Both Weber and Walker like their 11.
Raabe and fellow forward Eleanor Dale are both back. Each tallied seven goals a season ago, tops on the team.
Dale, a junior out of England, gives NU more than just stats, though.
“She brings a level of class and expertise,” Weber said. “Really adds to our attack. Just the way she talks about the game … she knows everything that’s going on.”
Weber, an All-Big Ten freshman team selection coming off of a six-goal campaign, was tied for third with 14 points. Sophomore Abbey Schwarz, an Omaha Roncalli graduate, had a team-leading eight assists to go with three goals.
Gwen Lane and Haley Peterson – a pair of Lincoln products – are back, too. The two finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in points a year ago.
“This spring, our energy at practice was there,” Weber said. “We’re here to get better. I think we’re doing all of the little things that we need to focus on.”
It’s those details that Walker said will make the difference in close matches this season. He points specifically to one-score losses to Michigan and Rutgers a year ago for proof.
In a 3-2 loss against a Michigan side that reached the regional, Nebraska had a 21-10 advantage in shots. That came just two weeks after the Huskers went toe-to-toe with national semifinalist Rutgers, eventually losing 1-0.
“Gave some of the best teams in the country a tough time,” Walker said. “That’s how tight it is. Those results need to turn into wins.”
And what’s the formula for that success?
“There’s no exact science to it,” Walker said. “Can you improve and be a bit more consistent? Game management. Handling the demands. Having the confidence that you’re good enough.”