Photo by Pat Radigan
7′ – NU – Brandt (1)
37′ – NU – Huber (1)
69′ – NU – Rienks (1)
Story by Pat Radigan
Early Husker goal sparks big night for the Big Red to open the season.
The Jayhawks started the game on the front foot, even hitting the post in the first five minutes, but it would be Nebraska that struck first when Meg Brandt hammered home a bouncing ball in the box in the seventh minute. Another Husker goal before the half made things comfortable for Nebraska, before a well-designed set piece put the game out of reach as the only second half goal in NU’s 3-0 win on Friday night in Lawrence.
Despite having a number of new faces and players playing in new places, it didn’t take long for the Huskers to get to work on Friday. Nebraska opened its account for the regular season off a counter attack after Michaela Loebel kept a ball alive off of a deep cross into the box. Loebel’s touch flicked the ball into space, with Brandt there to skim a shot low and into the far corner past the keeper.
Brandt scored two goals a year ago on the way to earning a place on the Big Ten’s All-Freshman team, and didn’t take long to show she’s ready to take on a more significant role in her sophomore campaign.
“Our goal is to really come out strong with a burst right away,” Brandt said. “We were ready for them to come at us, and we just wanted to come back strong. We just stayed calm and we played our game.”
Nebraska doubled its lead almost exactly 30 minutes later. The sequence started in Kansas’ penalty area, when NU defender Caroline Buelt was able to make a sliding stop and block a shot by KU’s Lois Heuchan. Heuchan got the ball back, but was again stopped by a sliding tackle from Buelt, who controlled the ball and played at outlet pass up field. The ball eventually found its way to the feet of Haley Hanson, who was able to start the counter attack with a streaking run down the left sideline.
Hanson ditched the defender with a cut back, and then whipped in a cross toward the far post and substitute forward Elyse Huber. The 5’4″ Huber was all alone with KU’s Kayla Morrison, but despite giving up five inches in height, it was Huber that rose up and clipped a header back toward goal. The Kansas keeper stepped up to cut off the angle, which created just enough space for Huber’s header to loop over her head and drop into the netting at the far post.
“Caroline made an amazing body before ball turn, and Haley got it down line,” Huber said, “and I was just thinking ‘Make that run!’ She had a perfect cross and we just executed it really well.”
That gave Nebraska a 2-0 lead after 45 minutes, however, the most important play of the half was a missed chance by the Jayhawks. Playing under the lights at Rock Chalk Park, Kansas came out of the gates with pressure in mind. A crunching slide tackle off the opening kickoff set the tone for KU, with the Jayhawks keeping Nebraska pinned deep over the first five minutes.
The Jayhawks then nearly broke the seal early when Husker keeper Aubrei Corder came off her line to try and clear a long pass. Instead, it was Kansas forward Katie McClure who wound up with the ball at her feet, and despite getting solid contact on her shot, McClure’s attempt clanked off the post and stayed out to keep the game scoreless.
The Huskers then put the game out of reach with the only excitement of the second half when senior Alexis Rienks notched her first goal at Nebraska. The Lincoln native came on as a sub, and put the final touches on a well-designed set piece to close the door on any hopes of a KU comeback.
Freshman Theresa Pujado drew the foul that set up the play, which set up an opportunity for a set piece from just outside of the box. Nebraska played the ball backwards, then sent in a cross toward the near post that was flicked on by Alli Peterson. Rienks won the next ball, and sent her touch over the head of the KU keeper and put away the win on opening night.
Nebraska will wrap up its trip to Lawrence on Sunday morning, when the Big Red battles Tulsa at 10 a.m.