Senior Andrea Daves knows her UNO teammates didn’t need extra motivation after waiting until February to kick off a women’s soccer season that typically plays out in fall.
The Mavericks, however, did have more fuel added to their fire when the Summit League’s preseason poll was released. UNO was picked eighth in the nine-team league.
“We were really surprised to see where we were ranked,” the three-year starter said. “But in a way, we were really excited about that because I think we knew we brought in a lot of new players that (opposing) coaches didn’t know about.”
The Mavs have proven to be one of the league’s top teams this spring, compiling an 8-4-4 record for their first winning season since 2010.
“I think we feel really good about the body of work we put in the past eight weeks,” coach Tim Walters said. “We’re probably where we felt we deserved to be.”
The Mavericks earned a bid in the four-team league tournament this week at Caniglia Field. UNO is the third seed and will face South Dakota State at 5 p.m. Thursday, while the other semifinal pits top-seeded Denver and South Dakota at 2. The final will be Saturday at 4.
And that preseason poll?
Well, it’s still posted in the UNO locker room — in case any extra motivation is necessary.
“I think they always felt they were good players, and they kind of laughed it off,” Walters said of the poll. “I think they took it with a grain of salt and said we’re going to prove everyone wrong.”
The Mavs have done that with mostly a young lineup. Of the nine Mavs who have played more than 900 minutes, six are freshmen.
Among those freshmen are Sophia Green, who leads the team with six goals; midfielder Grace Ostergaard, a Millard West grad who has played more than 1,300 minutes; Marian product Grace Thede, a defender who has played nearly 1,200 minutes; and keeper Mia Olesen, who has allowed six goals in 10 games.
“I think in general what the freshmen have brought to the team is what freshmen always bring, and that’s kind of a new energy and a different kind of motivation to do well,” said Daves, who has scored five goals this season.
Walters said shifting the season from fall to spring has helped the newcomers adjust to the program and make an immediate impact.
“It became pretty clear in the fall that they were going to have pretty big roles for us in the spring,” Walters said. “We thought with this group we brought in that we could be very competitive this year.”
Daves thinks there’s a better connection between the team’s front line and back line this season, too.
And while scoring is up for the Mavs, their defense has recorded nine shutouts and allowed 0.70 goals a game. The defense is led by junior Margaret LaVigne, who was second-team All-Summit in 2019.
UNO could be in for a defensive battle in Thursday’s semifinal. South Dakota State (12-0-4) has allowed five goals all season. In mid-February, the Mavs and Jackrabbits played to scoreless ties in both of their regular-season matches, which were played indoors because of the cold.