After seven years of futility against Nebraska, Kansas University's soccer team came within a few feet of finally breaking through against the No. 18 Cornhuskers on Sunday at SuperTarget Field.
With the score tied at 1-1 in the first overtime, KU freshman forward Caroline Smith took a pass from Brooke Jones about a yard in front of Nebraska goalkeeper Erin Miller. Shocked that Miller stayed put, Smith couldn't score.
"I had no idea why the goalie wasn't coming out on it," Smith said, "because it was so close to her. She kind of surprised me, and I panicked and screwed up."
Neither team could get the ball in the net the rest of the game, and the Jayhawks were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw in front of 861 fans, 147 more than the school record set in Friday's 5-1 victory against Colorado.
It was the first time Kansas had not lost to Nebraska in their nine meetings, but a tie was not the result the Jayhawks wanted.
"We've never not lost to them and to tie, you'd think we'd be happy," KU coach Mark Francis said, "but to be honest we're kind of disappointed because I really thought we deserved to win."
Nebraska (5-2-3 overall, 1-0-1 Big 12) went on the attack early in the first half, but Kansas (7-1-2, 1-0-1) took control midway through the period, forcing the Cornhuskers back on their heels.
Although the Jayhawks couldn't score, they held the Cornhuskers to just five shots in the first half and 15 in the game.
"Everybody played well," senior defender and co-captain Brianna Valento said. "Every substitute played well. It was a real team effort. It was the best we've played so far, and it was fun, too."
Kansas kept the pressure on Nebraska after halftime, especially Smith.
The freshman from Edina, Minn., put a shot on goal 10 minutes into the second half, but Miller got just enough of the ball to deflect it for the save.
Miller couldn't get any of Smith's next shot, though, a perfectly placed kick from the left side into the back right corner of the net in the 67th minute. The goal was Smith's 10th of the season, breaking the freshman record she held with teammate Monica Brothers and tying Hilla Rantala for the single season mark. Amy Geha picked up the assist.
Exuberant from the team's first goal against Nebraska since 1999, the Jayhawks lost focus on the ensuing kickoff. NU's Aly Scace raced down the left sideline and found Christine Latham in the middle of the box for the equalizer. The goal gave Latham 147 career points, moving her into first all-time at Nebraska.
"It's been a while since we scored against Nebraska and I think we got really excited," Valento said. "They put the ball down and went right at it, and they're good at that."
Although the Jayhawks weren't happy with a tie, they know it was the team's best result against the Cornhuskers.
"It's going to hurt them more than it's going to hurt us," Valento said. "They came in here ranked 18th and we proved we should be ranked, too. We can play with these guys."