CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Nebraska soccer coach John Walker had one name for his team Sunday — Big Ten champions.
Freshman forward Jaycie Johnson said earning that label felt so good after the Huskers shut out Iowa 1-0 Sunday to win the program's first Big Ten tournament title.
It also earned them a spot in the NCAA tournament.
“My breath was taken away,” Johnson said as the Huskers hoisted the trophy afterward. “It was a great feeling.”
Walker told his players how proud he was of them to not only claim the regular-season title but to win the sixth tournament title in program history. The Huskers have won their last nine matches and 16 of 17.
Stacy Bartels, a senior from Omaha Skutt, said it felt even better knowing the No. 18 Huskers (18-3-1) had been picked to finish ninth in the preseason by coaches.
“We proved people wrong,” Bartels said. “It felt awesome.”
The difference was a penalty kick in the 30th minute from Johnson, who was named the offensive player of the tournament.
“It was very important,” Johnson said. “It gave us more momentum. It was really nice to get a 1-0 lead.”
Bartels said she knew the Hawkeyes would come out firing after that, but the Huskers stayed calm and played their game.
Iowa had a 16-11 edge in shots, but NU allowed just three shots on goal while putting four attempts on target. Jordan Jackson led the Huskers with five overall attempts.
Johnson said the Huskers did everything they could to hold off the Hawkeyes, especially in the final minutes as Iowa threw everything at them.
She said the Huskers' message for each other was simple: “Just don't let them see the ball, and keep them out of the box. Keep them out of our box.”
NU senior goalkeeper Emma Stevens made three stops to earn her 18th win of the year and the 36th of her career.
She was one of six Huskers to play the entire match. The others were Jackson, Ari Romero, Kylie Greischar, Mayme Conroy and Maritza Hayes.
Jackson, Johnson and Romero were named to the all-tournament team. Romero was named the defensive player of the tournament.
Bartels said the Huskers worked hard all season to reach their goals. She said it felt good to put the program back on top.
It was the 10th conference championship for Walker, who started the program 20 years ago. The Huskers won their last regular-season title in 2000 and last tournament title in 2002.
Nebraska will find out its opponent in the NCAA tournament Monday at 3:30 p.m. when the selection show is streamed live by NCAA.com.
“I was so happy to be part of this journey,” Johnson said. “I'm so excited for that to start.”
Iowa (15-6-1) .......................................... 0 0—0
Nebraska (18-3-1) .......................................... 1 0—1
Goals: NU, Johnson.