It wasn’t exactly the way the Nebraska women’s soccer team wanted to kick off its 2018 campaign, but exhibition matches exist for a reason.
The Huskers dropped their lone exhibition match of the 2018 season, 3-1, to Arkansas on Thursday night at Hibner Stadium in a competitive early-season test.
Coach John Walker, who’s entering his 25th season with Nebraska, lost nine players to graduation last season, so Thursday’s match served as a test run for several new faces and was an opportunity for several seniors to grow into their newly anointed leadership roles.
“I’m really embracing a leadership role on defense, I’m always happy to pass on what other players have taught me before and I’m proud to be a senior on this backline,” said senior defender Caroline Buelt. “It’s great to be able to lineup the players in front of me.”
Defensively, the Huskers played with a three-back backline, which requires strong vocal leadership and a lot of athleticism from the three tasked with defending the opponent’s front line. It can be a tough assignment at times but Buelt and her experienced backline teammates, Grace Brown and Sinclaire Miramontez, are ready for the challenge.
“It’s a lot of work for the three center backs, but I do really like it,” Buelt added. “It provides balance and it allows to have more players in the midfield. When we don’t play that way, it can allow other teams to take advantage of our midfield so the back three allows us to be more competitive in the middle.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Huskers lost one of their most electric players in the midfield to graduation last season. Haley Hanson was always a threat to opposing defenses up the middle over the past four seasons and she’s now playing professionally for the NWSL's Houston Dash, but her legacy has had a lasting impact on this year’s midfielders and forwards.
“Losing Haley (Hanson) was a big deal, obviously, but what I think about is what I can do to play like her,” senior forward Faith Carter said. “It was great to be able to watch her do her thing last season. My goal is to play with my own brand but incorporate what she brought to the field as well.”
Carter scored the Huskers’ lone goal on Thursday after receiving a pass from Grace Brown and pushing it past the Arkansas keeper in the 13th minute.
The Razorbacks opened the scoring in the second minute before adding goals in the 52nd and the 82nd to roll to the victory.
Despite the early setback, the goal is always the same for the Nebraska soccer program.
“We want to be the Big Ten champs and whatever we can do to get there is what we’re going to do,” Carter said.
The Huskers start their official season next Thursday at Oklahoma before opening their home season on Aug. 20 against BYU.