Three young forwards provide much needed spark for Husker women’s soccer | Sports

Three young forwards provide much needed spark for Husker women’s soccer | Sports

The Nebraska women’s soccer team boasts a plethora of young attacking talent that it has lacked in the last few years. That attacking talent has launched the Huskers to a 4-2 start, smashing their goal total from last season in just three games, and it has provided a balance that the Huskers have been itching for.

Three young forwards have stolen the show right from the start, as freshmen Allison Napora, Abbey Schwarz and Sarah Weber have supplied a much needed spark during the early part of the young season. 

While the trio has dominated headlines early on, Nebraska holds an embarrassment of riches in young attacking talent with freshman forwards Briley Hill and Maggie Altman and freshman midfielders Jordan Zade, Florence Belzile, Aislinn Boyle and Haley Peterson entering the Husker program.

Head coach John Walker has credited the young freshman for not only their talent and ability on the field, but also their incredible work ethic and willingness to listen and learn everyday.

“They have all the talent with their pace and energy but what has really impressed me is their willingness to learn quickly and recognize that they need to get up to speed in certain aspects of their game at this level,” Walker said. “They are always staying after practice working on their craft as well as always making their individual meetings and have shown their eagerness to get better.”

Napora has played in four of the Huskers’ six games, grabbing her first career goal while also putting six shots on target. Schwarz has also provided some excellent playmaking, posting four assists while playing in all six games for the Huskers. 

Weber has also played in all six of Nebraska’s games, slotting a goal home as well as providing an assist on the year. Weber acknowledged just how special playing and making big contributions has been for her and her teammates this season. 

“Just being on the field and playing as much as we have has been a privilege in itself,” Weber said. “To not only be playing and be shown that kind of trust from the coaching staff, but to also be contributing the way myself and my teammates have has been truly special.”

The Huskers have built a culture of staying aggressive and continuing to attack even when mistakes are made. That culture, in addition to a relentless stream of encouragement from both the coaching staff as well as the more senior players on the team, has played a major part in the success of the young forwards who have powered the attack for Nebraska this season.

Walker reiterated the importance of this culture, ensuring that his players stay aggressive and play with a risk-taking mentality when they are on the field no matter the outcome. 

“I think putting them on the field is the first sign of confidence and continuing to encourage them to use their attacking skills even when they make mistakes,” Walker said. “There is going to be an adjustment period, especially against the more quality teams, and there will be moments of disappointment, but playing through those mistakes and making sure you’re going at full speed when you make those mistakes is key for them.”

That attitude helps to build confidence that even when his young players make mistakes, they know that they can come right back and go again.

The Huskers struggled with scoring during the shortened COVID-19 season last spring, but that thirst for goal-scoring has been quenched, thanks to the new forwards that have come into the Nebraska program. Those contributions are not lost on those new freshmen, as Napora noted that it has been a surreal experience to help fill a need for the Huskers. 

“Just being able to come in and be able to help contribute in a way that the team has struggled with in the past has been really special,” Napora said. “Walking into a team with so many veterans that are so gifted defensively and technically has been huge for us to be able to contribute in the attacking side of the game.”

The Huskers have built a reputation for their toughness and defensive prowess over the years, but now they have added the much needed speed and athleticism up front. 

That addition has helped transform their attack and propel them to their 4-2 start to the season as well as put up much improved goal-scoring numbers. Schwarz believes Nebraska has done an excellent job of retaining what it’s great at while also bringing the attacking side to their game this season.

“I think from watching the team in the past, we are still doing a great job of what we are great at, but we have also been able to add speed and fitness in the front,” Schwarz said. “The desire to score has been such a big difference this season, and adding that style of play along with staying with what we are great at has been the biggest part of the success we have been able to have.”

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