When the week-and-a-half state championship begins in downtown Omaha on Monday, seven Lincoln teams will be in the field.
In Class A girls: Lincoln South East, Lincoln Southwest, Lincoln East and Lincoln Bios X; In class A, there are southwest and east; In the Class B girls, Lincoln Lutheran/Raymond Central is in it.
Last season, there were five Lincoln teams in the state, and a few years ago there was a season with only two Lincoln teams.
Now, the way to go from a good season to a great one is for the Lincoln team to be able to retake the state championship. Since 2014, when the Southwest Boys won, the Lincoln team has won the state football championship. Southwest was close again last season, losing on penalties to Omaha South in the title match.
In the Class A girls, Lincoln has not been a finalist since 2012 (Southeast), or a champion since 2005 (East).
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While Lincoln’s odds of winning this year’s champion have improved, defending Class One girls’ champion Gretna is still the team to defeat, as she scored 18-0 and outpaced her opponents 107-4 this season.
Lincoln currently has some outstanding talent with several NCAA Division I recruits, and they’ve helped evaluate high school teams. These players walked this path at a young age, going on to some solid club programmes.
“These girls on every team wouldn’t be as good if we didn’t have good coaches coaching them from the juice box and fruit snack league right down to where they are now,” Steve Anderson, Lincoln Bios X coach, said. “There are girls on every team in town who travel around the county almost year-round to play, and those fruits are thriving.”
Pius X had really good teams when it was in Class B, but it was even more difficult when Pius X became one of the youngest schools to play in Class A.
The Thunderbolts are led by the sisters Vacek – senior Abby has 16 goals and second freshman Kate has 11. Abby Vacek is so good that she has played for the boys team of her club, Hawks FC. The senior player recently committed to playing football in Nebraska State.
But Pius X is good at defense too. Bolts use a three-defender formation with Lily Hodge, Sidney Schmidt and Brooklyn Schotkowski, who had great difficulty scoring with goalkeeper Cathy Pham.
“It’s a risk-reward situation where you play three in the back, but they are players with a very strong defensive mentality which allows us to play in an offensive style,” Andersen said.
The city’s high school coaches are also good, and many programs have had continuity of training.
Lincoln Southwest girls coach Thomas Nettleton learned from some great coaches as a graduating assistant coach for the Hastings men’s team for two years after he finished playing at school.
Lincoln’s South East Cramer coach Liz (Sundberg) learned a lot while on the Husker football team for one season. She then trained under Nettleton for several years before he encouraged her to try and get a job in the southeast.
Nettleton said Kramer is good and aware of what the players need at every moment.
“It builds confidence in others and sees strengths in other people that they may not know themselves,” Nettleton said. “She has a backbone strong enough to put pressure on anyone who pushes her hard, and she’s a champion of culture.”
Many city teams have off-season training programs in the summer and winter. Last season, Southwest hit a record 15-0, but lost in the first round against Millard North 1–0 in a penalty shootout.
So last summer, they had some volunteer training for the strikers focused on improving final shots. It happened early in the morning about three days a week.
“That was basically her 19-shot group, and she only had two against her, and she didn’t win the first round of the state championship,” Nettleton said. “This was more of a diagnosis of what we could improve, so we made the commitment. I asked the guys if they wanted to do it, and they said yes. So we did it at 6:45 in the morning.”
When it comes time to play club football in the summer and fall, many female players in Lincoln still seek to play for teams in Gretna and Omaha.
But some other Lincoln club programs have emerged, which means Lincoln players help other Lincoln players improve their high school teams. One such club is the 402 Development Academy, which has won several government titles.
“Now there is a very strong domestic group,” Nettleton said. “That’s why Pius is better, we’re better, East is better, and then Southeast is playing out of their minds.”
* The state championship stayed on its eight-day format while playing during the pandemic in 2021, with all 28 games played at Morrison Stadium in Creighton. But the first match of the day will now start at noon instead of 10 in the morning
* There are some soccer schools there, where eight teams make up both boys and girls teams. Here’s the list: Gretna, Lincoln East, Lincoln Southwest, Omaha Westside, Omaha Scott, Elcorn North, Northwest, and Bennington.
* State playoffs for the first time all come in Category B – Northwest girls’ and Elcorn North boys’ and girls’ teams.
In pictures: A last-minute goal sends the Lincoln East boys past Millard South on an official football tour