The Capital City is sending 7 to state. Here’s why it has been a good year for Lincoln soccer | High School Soccer

The power in high school soccer in the state still leans heavily to the Omaha area, but this has been a good season for the Lincoln schools.

When the state tournament begins its 1½-week run in downtown Omaha on Monday, seven Lincoln teams will be in the field.

In Class A girls it’s Lincoln Southeast, Lincoln Southwest, Lincoln East and Lincoln Pius X; in Class A boys it’s Southwest and East; in Class B girls Lincoln Lutheran / Raymond Central is in.

Last season there were five Lincoln teams at state, and a few years ago there was a season with just two Lincoln teams there.

Now, the way for it to go from a good season to an outstanding one is if a Lincoln team can bring back a state championship. It’s been since 2014, when the Southwest boys won, that a Lincoln team won a state soccer championship. Southwest was close again last season, losing in a shootout against Omaha South in the title match.

In Class A girls, Lincoln hasn’t had a finalist since 2012 (Southeast), or a champion since 2005 (East).

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During the two most recent state tournaments all of the champions were from the Omaha area.

While Lincoln’s odds of having a champ are improved this year, defending Class A girls champion Gretna is still the team to beat, with an 18-0 record and having outscored its opponents 107-4 this season.

Right now in Lincoln there is some top-end talent with several NCAA Division I recruits, and they’ve helped evaluate their high school teams. Those players got on that path at a young age, and kept going with some strong club programs.

“These girls on every team wouldn’t be as good as we are if we didn’t have good coaches coaching them up from juice box and fruit snack league all the way up to where they are now,” Lincoln Pius X coach Steve Andersen said. “There are girls on every single team in the city that travel around the county almost a year round to play, and those fruits are coming to bloom.”

Pius X had really good teams when it was in Class B, but it’s been tougher when Pius X became one of the smaller schools playing in Class A. The Thunderbolts made state for the first time since 2015.

The Thunderbolts are led by the Vacek sisters – senior Abby has 16 goals and sophomore Kate has 11. Abby Vacek is so good that she’s played with the boys team from her club organization, Hawks FC. The senior recently committed to play soccer for Nebraska.

But Pius X is good on defense, too. The Bolts use a three-defender formation with Lily Hodge, Sydney Schmidt and Brooklyn Shotkoski, who along with goalie Cathi Pham, have been pretty tough to score on.

“It’s a risk-reward situation playing three in the back, but they’re very strong defensive-minded players which allows us to play an attacking style,” Andersen said.

The high school coaches in the city are also good, and several programs have had coaching continuity.

Lincoln Southwest girls coach Thomas Nettleton learned from some great coaches as a graduate assistant coach for the Hastings men’s team for two years after he had finished playing at the school.

Lincoln Southeast coach Liz (Sundberg) Kremer learned a lot while on the Husker soccer team for one season. Then she coached under Nettleton for several years before she encouraged her to try for the Southeast job.

Nettleton said Kremer is good and discerning what the players need at each moment.

“She builds confidence in others and sees the strengths in other people that they might not identify in themselves,” Nettleton said. “She has a strong enough backbone to push against anybody that will push hard against her, and she’s a culture-builder.”

Many of the city teams have offseason training programs in the summer and winter. Last season Southwest had a 15-0 record going to state, but lost in the first round against Millard North 1-0 in a shootout.

So last summer they had some voluntary workouts for attackers focused on improving at finishing shots. That occurred early in the morning about three days per week.

“That was primarily for a group that had 19 shots, and only had two against, and didn’t win in the first round of the state tournament,” Nettleton said. “That was more of a diagnosis of what we could improve on, so we made the commitment. I asked the players if they would want to do it, and they said yes. So we did it at 6:45 am ”

When it’s time for club soccer in the summer and fall, many girls players in Lincoln still make the drive to play for teams in Gretna and Omaha.

But a few more club programs have emerged in Lincoln, which means Lincoln players are helping other Lincoln players improve for their high school teams. One of those clubs is the 402 Development Academy, which has won several state titles.

“Now there is a group locally that has been very strong,” Nettleton said. “That’s why Pius is better, we’re better, East is better, and then Southeast is just playing out of their mind.”

'We're more of a family': Southeast girls improve by five wins and make state


* The state tournament has stayed with the eight-day format it went to while playing during the pandemic in 2021, with all 28 matches played at Creighton’s Morrison Stadium. But the first match of the day will now start at noon instead of 10 am

* There are some soccer schools out there, with eight teams getting both their boys and girls teams to state. Here’s the list: Gretna, Lincoln East, Lincoln Southwest, Omaha Westside, Omaha Skutt, Elkhorn North, Northwest and Bennington.

* The first-time state qualifiers all come in Class B – the Northwest girls and Elkhorn North’s boys and girls teams.


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