The Kansas University soccer squad tied Nebraska 1-1 on Sept. 29 at SuperTarget Field, the first non-loss for the Jayhawks against the Cornhuskers in eight all-time matches.
A tie won't be good enough tonight, though, when the teams play each other in the first round of the Big 12 Conference tournament at 7:30 p.m. at Blossom Soccer Stadium in San Antonio.
Kansas coach Mark Francis said the tie was a step forward from last season's 2-0 loss in Omaha, Neb.
"We just now know that we don't have any choice," Francis said. "We have to win or we go home.
"If we can beat Nebraska and make a run to the final, we'll have a good shot at making the (NCAA) tournament."
No. 6-seeded Kansas (11-6-2 overall, 4-5-1 Big 12) must win to move on in the postseason a feat the Jayhawks have never accomplished.
Kansas is 0-3 in postseason play and 0-2 in the Big 12 tournament.
The Cornhuskers' defense could stymie the Jayhawks, because No. 3-seeded Nebraska (11-5-3, 6-3-1) has shut out 11 opponents this year.
Kansas has played solid defense as well, with team-record lows in goals allowed (24) and goals-against average (1.22).
Kansas has struggled lately, ending the regular season on a three-game losing streak. The Jayhawks were outscored 2-9 in games against Missouri, Texas A&M and Texas, and Francis said those losses could alter the players' confidence.
"Of course it's going to affect them," Francis said. "And they had been feeling really down, but we're confident going into the tournament."
Kansas freshman forward Caroline Smith, who has missed the team's past five games because of a torn medial collateral ligament, is expected to play tonight but won't start. Smith leads the team with 11 goals and 25 points and was named to the Big 12 Soccer All-Newcomer Team on Monday. She is second in the Big 12 in goals and game-winning goals, and is sixth in points.
The winner of tonight's game will face the winner of No. 2 Texas and No. 7 Iowa State at either 5 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. Friday.