LUBBOCK, Texas – The Texas Tech soccer team suffered its first home loss of the season as it dropped a 5-4 overtime heartbreaker to Nebraska on Sunday afternoon at the John Walker Soccer Complex.
The gut wrenching loss came after an inspired Texas Tech (9-4/2-2) team played from behind from the 14th minute but refused to be put away despite deficits of 0-2, 3-1, and 4-2.
"It was a very odd first half in that I don't recall ever having this much of the game against Nebraska in my four years here," said head coach Tom Stone. "We had all of the best chances but hit the post or failed to convert when we were in great spots. Nebraska had exactly two-good looks and it was 2-0. They deserve credit for finishing them though. When we scored to make it 2-1 before the half, I believed that we'd make it a game and we certainly did."
Tech's first goal came after junior Taylor Lytle megged her defender down the endline and served a ball to the near post that freshman Jessica Fuston sent into the upper near corner of the net off a powerful header. It was Fuston's fifth goal of the season.
Despite more good play and possession from the Red Raiders, Nebraska (9-4/2-2) took a 3-1 lead on a controversial counter attack that started from an odd Tech turnover in the offensive end.
"We thought our player got pulled off balance as she tried to serve the ball, so it goes to the other team and two passes later, Nebraska scores," stated Stone. "Credit again goes to the Huskers for punishing us for the turnover but it probably never should have happened."
Tech simply would not go away and this time it was reserve forward senior Leanne Mihelich who pressured the Husker backline into a costly mistake.
"We saw that the Nebraska keeper does not take her own goal kicks so we pushed our forwards up on the edge of the 18 yard box," said Stone.
This strategy paid off as Tech won the goal kick and Mihelich ran down the loose ball and beat the keeper to it to knock in her first goal of the season and make it 3-2.
With Tech pushing numbers forward, Lytle got stripped near midfield and the Husker counter attack again culminated in a goal to take a 4-2 lead.
Then the drama began for the remainder of the contest. Down 4-2 with most of its team pushed forward, Tech got down the flank and on the ensuing cross, a Nebraska defender was called for a handball in the box. Fuston converted the penalty kick for her team-leading sixth goal of the season at 87:36.The remaining two minutes were played at a frantic pace by both teams as Nebraska tried to kill the clock and Tech tried to get the equalizer. With less than 30 seconds to go, the Red Raiders took a throw in deep in Cornhusker territory. Sophomore Dawn Ward held of the Nebrasak defender and laid off a perfectly waited ball to junior Madison Terry who served a driven ball to the back post with under 10 seconds to go. Junior captain Casey McCall challenged hard for the cross and got enough on it to get to the far post where left back freshman Mallory Yacullo came flying in to hammer home the tying goal just as the clock hit zero, sending the crowd into a frenzy and the game into overtime.
The overtime only last one minute and 50 seconds. Nebraska capitalized on another set piece to score the sudden death winner and give the Huskers the 5-4 win.
" We tried to calm the team down heading into overtime, tried to get them back focused on the task at hand but we had spent so much energy and emotion coming from so far back that I was definitely concerned about the set piece so early in the overtime," Stone said. "Nebraska makes a living on set pieces and we were beaten twice that way on the day. No matter what else you look at, that was our undoing for the match. This was a bittersweet game for us as we experienced the elation and the devastation of what a match can bring over the course of 92 minutes. I am very proud of our young team for staying in it for the full 90 minutes right down to the final second of regulation and for never losing the belief that we could get back into this game. However, we learned some painful lessons today as well. Our only choice is to be better because of it and move on to next weekend."
Tech now heads south to take on Texas on Fri., Oct. 8, at 7 p.m. and Texas A&M on Sun., Oct. 10, at 1:30 p.m.