Briley Hill’s throat burned a little as she was playing against North Star at Seacrest Field. Having surgery to remove your tonsils, then playing in a soccer match about two weeks later will do that to you.
“I just had to push through,” a smiling Hill said after her Lincoln East Spartans beat North Star 4-0 on Tuesday to improve to 2-0 on the season.
Hill, one of East’s two senior Nebraska soccer commits, pushed through that night. But the Spartans as a whole have been shoving around their opponents.
Through two matches, East has scored 16 goals and allowed zero. In its opener against Lincoln Northeast, the Spartans racked up 12 goals.
East, which made the Class A state semifinals two seasons ago, has a lot of talent on its roster. Haley Peterson is committed to the Huskers, too, while sophomore Annie Mulder is a Kansas State soccer commit.
East’s head coach, Emily Mathews, knows about success. She’s an East alum and was a member of a program that played for four straight state titles, with back-to-back championships in 2004 and 2005. Mathews likes what she’s seeing from her team early on.
“I see the talent, accountability and determination necessary for success,” Mathews said.
Two qualities about this group of Spartans that stick out the most to Mathews is the work ethic and competitiveness.
“Every day, every player comes prepared and ready to give their all for their teammates and the program,” Mathews said. “They continue to be each other’s biggest competitor and cheerleader. They have a natural chemistry with one another, fostered not only by their friendships, but the desire to succeed. This team exudes our LEGS motto: Excellence. Integrity. Hard work.”
Peterson, a team captain, already has two goals and a team-high four assists. Following the win over North Star, she said East didn’t play its best game but still went home with a lopsided victory.
“We have a lot of talent on our team,” Peterson said. “There are a lot of skillsets and we play a lot of possession ball, and I think we work really well together. It’s just easy for us to play around our opponents.”
Said Hill: “We have so much crazy athleticism. I think this is the best team I’ve ever played on, and a lot of people come from really great clubs and there’s a lot of young talent, which is super good for the future of this program.”
The young talent Hill is referring to is easy to spot. Kayma Carpenter, a sophomore, leads the team with six goals. Lillie Shaw, another sophomore, has three.
Hill, Peterson, Mulder and senior captain Olivia Kugler, who’s a Hastings College basketball commit, bring it. Not only on the field, but off it as well.
“These ladies bring leadership and professionalism to the game,” Mathews said. “They understand the qualities and work ethic necessary to be a D-1 player, and they bring that level of skill and competition to every practice and game.”
The Spartans aren’t looking ahead at all. They want to play one match at a time. But they do have goals, one of which is to get to the state tournament. Once there, they want to see what kind of noise they can make.
“I have high hopes, and I truly think we can win state,” Hill said. “I think we have a great shot, and I think the way we’re progressing, we can peak at the right time.”
“We’ve been building up to this in my four years here,” Peterson said. “I’ve just been working so hard to get better and so have my teammates. It would mean a lot to get to the state championship and maybe even win it.”