Women’s Soccer: Sebo’s last-gasp penalty saved as Cats fall to Nebraska 1-0


Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Junior midfielder Maria Grygleski and sophomore midfielder Kim Jerantowski search for the ball in the air. NU was unable to capitalize on balls in the air, and that was part of its demise against Nebraska.

Max Schuman, Assistant Sports Editor

Games almost never come down to a single moment.

Sure, all games have pivotal moments, plays where the result feels inevitable to everybody watching. But there’s almost always time to respond, time for the losing team to atone for its mistakes with a burst of brilliant play, time for the most optimistic of fans to concoct a scenario that ends with their side on top.

When senior midfielder Niki Sebo stepped up to the penalty spot in the 90th minute Thursday, she was living the rarest of game-deciding moments. She had a chance to salvage a home tie for Northwestern, sitting a goal behind Nebraska on the evening to that point, and completely turn the narrative of the game on its head in its final act.
Her penalty attempt was saved. The Wildcats (10-4-2, 4-3-1 Big Ten) fell to the Cornhuskers (6-6-2, 2-4-2), 1-0.

In what has become a popular refrain in recent games, NU failed to generate enough chances and failed to convert the ones they did create on its way to a third shutout loss in the last four games. Head coach Michael Moynihan said that an unexpected formation from Nebraska made life difficult for the Cats.

“(Nebraska’s formation) wasn’t something that we had trained for, so we had to adjust a bit as the game went on,” he said. “There are no timeouts in our game, so we have to make changes on the fly.”

NU managed 10 shots in the game, putting five on goal, both slightly below its per-game season averages.

The Cats rely on a stout defense to take the pressure off an offense that scores a little more than a goal per game, and for the most part they did the job.

But despite holding the Cornhuskers to three shots on goal, they were unable to keep Nebraska off the board. Cornhusker freshman Caroline Buelt picked up the ball in the 15th minute outside the box and unleashed a shot that powered into the upper corner of the net and put Nebraska up 1-0.

It was an unlucky break for an NU team that was bitten by a similar long-distance strike in a 1-0 defeat to Michigan last Thursday. But an inability to generate quality chances made the one-goal margin too much for the Cats to overcome.

NU’s best chance prior to the game’s final moment also came off the foot of Sebo, who sent a free kick just over the net in the 72nd minute.

The Cats had to contend with Nebraska’s physical defending in the air, and Moynihan said his team didn’t get calls they deserved.

“I thought there was a lot going on that wasn’t called, which was disappointing,” he said. “Every single time we had a serve into the box there was a lot of pulling and illegal contact.”

In the dying minutes of the game, NU finally got the call in the box it was looking for to give Sebo her chance from the penalty spot, but Nebraska goalkeeper Erika Johnson made the save to seal the Cornhusker victory.

When asked what he would’ve changed about the game’s final moments, Moynihan kept it simple.

“Just score,” he said. “It’s a penalty kick, so what do you do?”

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