Previewing Thursday’s matchup between Nebraska and Michigan State

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MSU goaltender Lauren Kozal makes a save/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Luca Melloni, Women's Soccer Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING— After an encouraging 1-1 draw against the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday, head coach Tom Saxton and the Michigan State women’s soccer team will travel back home, or in this case, Schoolcraft College in Livonia, to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 1 p.m. 

The last encounter between these two Big Ten giants was over two years ago, on Oct. 24, 2018, when Nebraska claimed a 2-0 win over the Spartans in Lincoln, Nebraska. 

Saxton took a lot of positives out of MSU’s opening game against the Terrapins despite the heartbreaking ending and will aim to win their first game of 2021 against Nebraska.

Forward Gia Wahlberg scored the opening goal against the Terrapins and had an impressive overall outing. Last season, Wahlberg finished the campaign with nine goals and tallied 18 points overall, and she is looking to match that intensity this season.

Goalkeeper Lauren Kozal, midfielder Samantha Sklarski, and defender Bria Schrotenboer were the only three players to have played the entire 110 minutes of the first game. Kozal recorded four saves and kept the Spartans in the game.

Overall, it was a physically intense match for both sides having played 110 minutes in their opening game with no preseason matches for acclimation. Injury-forced substitutions were made for both teams during the overtime period. 

The Cornhuskers were held to a goalless 0-0 draw in their opening game against Minnesota in Minneapolis.  They are led by longtime head coach John Walker who has been the coach since the program was established in 1994. Walker has led Nebraska to the NCAA tournament on three separate occasions. Under Walker, the Cornhuskers have also won four conference regular season titles and five conference tournament championships. 

Last season, Nebraska finished in 10th place in the Big Ten and had a conference record of 3-6-2. They will be on a two-game road trip that includes traveling to MSU and Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus on Feb. 28.  In 18 overall games last season, the Cornhuskers were held scoreless in half of them. They also didn’t score more than two goals in any game, and only scored 12 goals the entire season.

It will be an unusual home game for the Spartans as they head to St. Joe’s Sports Complex at Schoolcraft College, but the objective will not be different. A win for the Spartans on Thursday will set them up for an enticing matchup against Minnesota on Sunday, Feb. 28.