It all happened so fast. As it often goes with sports, if you blinked you may have missed it.
Tied at 1-1 with Missouri State a couple weeks ago, the Mavericks were yearning for their first win. They were down 1-0 early in the first half, and things looked like they were headed for the same result that Omaha had endured much of the season. However, Omaha battled back in the second half and showed their determination to rewrite the script for the 2017 season.
“We’re excited for the rest of the season. We got that first one out of the way and now we can go out and be ready to play,” says Abby Meader, a junior on the team.
After Natalie Johnson’s goal to tie the game at 1-1, UNO and Missouri State were in the late stages of the first overtime, looking like it was headed for an eventual draw. Omaha wasn’t having it, though. They wanted a win.
A foul right outside the box gave Omaha a free kick opportunity with five minutes left in the overtime period. Emily Romero hurried to line herself up and floated a perfect ball towards a cluster of players from both teams into the box. As the goalie came and attempted to punch the ball out of danger, one head rose above all others. All of a sudden, the ball goes towards the net with no defenders or goalie to impede the header. Game over. Mavericks win.
It is no surprise that it was Meader’s head that got to the cross. Last season, she played midfield and had three points in her sophomore campaign. More importantly, she showed that her size, speed and athleticism was something that if she could hone in on, could help her produce at a rapid pace. This was evident at the younger levels when Meader led her Lincoln Southwest High School team to four straight state appearances while tallying 63 goals in her final three seasons for the Silver Hawks.
It goes without saying that this girl can play, that’s never been the question. Finding the right spot for her has been the only obstacle in her collegiate career. But in her junior year, she may have found her spot thanks to Head Coach Tim Walters, who has had her playing outside back; not a usual spot for players that score. That change though has not only brought Meader more success, but the Mavericks as well.
“Coach put me back there because he thinks it can bring success and I’ve scored more goals in the last two games than I have my entire career here, so I think you could say it’s working out,” Meader says.
After her breathtaking goal to give Omaha its first win of the season, Meader had more to offer in her next game. With less than ten minutes to play against UMKC, Meader made a run from her outside back position. She was given the ball right on the edge of the box and dribbled in with one touch before she was fouled hard by a defender inside the box. In a scoreless game with minimal Maverick scoring chances, Meader was awarded a penalty kick.
In typical Meader fashion, she delivered. Just like that, Omaha was on a winning streak—a much needed winning streak. Those wins have helped raise the team’s spirits and more importantly, provided dangerous scoring opportunities for the Mavericks.
“Playing outside back gives me more space to make my runs and my teammates are doing a great job of getting me the ball at the right time.”
For Meader, nothing is quite as satisfying as reaping the fruits of her labor.