A dozen years ago, a Carter roamed the field at forward for Omaha Marian, leading the Crusaders to the last of six straight state titles.
When the state tournament begins Wednesday at Creighton's Morrison Stadium, it will feel like a blast from the past for Marian.
Freshman Faith Carter is the leading point scorer for the Class A No. 1 Crusaders, who open play with a first-round match against sixth-ranked Lincoln East at 9 a.m.
Faith is the younger sister of Ashley Carter, the 2003 All-Nebraska captain and one of the state's top high school girls soccer players ever.
“I just remember her scoring goals,” Faith Carter said of her older sister, who was a scholarship player at Nebraska before starring at Bellevue University. “I always try to be like my sister. It comes natural to want to be like her.”
The younger Carter has done her share of scoring, too, in her first year with Marian. She has 12 goals, second on the team, and 11 assists this season.
“They both play physical,” Marian coach Ed Dudley said of the sisters. “They're both great athletes. I think Ashley might have started a little younger than Faith. At this age, Faith might be a little more physically tougher.”
Faith has started all 17 games this season for the Crusaders. She has given Marian yet another quick weapon up front. She scored the lone goal in a 1-0 district final victory against Omaha Burke.
“It's no secret that I like fast players,” Dudley said. “She's right up my style of play.”
Carter said she tries to play the game in a physical nature.
“You have your body,” she said. “You need to use it.”
Dudley said the key to his team's success at the state tournament will be staying consistent with what it has done all season. The Crusaders' only loss was a 1-0 setback on the last day of March to then-No. 1 Millard North. They avenged that defeat with a pair of wins against the Mustangs.
“This is a really talented field,” Dudley said. “We just go play the way we play and see what happens. If it starts going in the net for us … look out.”
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East's streak ends
Jeff Hoham has some time on his hands this week, a feeling that the Lincoln East boys coach hasn't experienced in a while.
Hoham's squad fell to Westside in a district championship and narrowly missed on the wild card when Millard West was upset by Norfolk in another final.
It ended a streak of 19 consecutive years with the Spartans in the state tournament.
“To understand and fathom the process … 19 years in a row was ridiculous,” Hoham said. “The streak had to end at some point.”
Hoham has been East's coach for 11 seasons. He was an assistant for a number of years before that. His teams have won four state titles and been in six championship matches.
He said he's drawn on the experience of another streak that was snapped — his boys tennis team's string of eight straight state titles was stopped in 1996 — when he addressed his team late last week.
“I remember the 1996 (tennis) team feeling dejected and down,” Hoham said. “You can't take ownership of this. You have to understand it and get through it. That's a great life lesson.”
Hoham said he probably wouldn't be at Morrison Stadium until Saturday, when the Class A boys have semifinals at 1 and 3 p.m.
So for the first time in two decades without an East boys team in the field, who is Hoham's pre-tournament pick to win?
“I'm a Hoover and Swanny fan, I'll say that,” Hoham said of Omaha Creighton Prep co-coaches Tom Hoover and Jim Swanson. “I think that their losing to South towards the end of the season will benefit them more than it hurt them. I also think that Grand Island is on the verge of setting a standard for their program and the state. I firmly and honestly can't pick a winner.”
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Picking the winners
Hoham has the luxury of not picking a winner. I have no such luxury, though I can't claim to be bold when predicting matchups of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in each championship.
Here are my picks:
First round: Omaha Creighton Prep over Norfolk, Omaha South over Millard West, Kearney over Omaha Westside, Grand Island over Papillion-La Vista South
Semifinals: Omaha Creighton Prep over Omaha South, Grand Island over Kearney
Final: Omaha Creighton Prep over Grand Island
Sleeper: Papillion-La Vista South
Comments: Tough hurdles obviously remain, but a rematch of last year's 2-1 Creighton Prep win against Grand Island in the championship is very possible. The two have been ranked first and second for more than half of the season. Rematches of regular-season classics would make Saturday's semifinals very interesting. South ended Prep's record winning streak late in the season, the only stain on the Junior Jays' résumé. Grand Island scored three goals in the final 7:10 while playing a man down to beat Kearney 4-3 in the regular season, the Bearcats' only setback of the season. It was the second straight year the Islanders overcame a three-goal deficit to beat Kearney. A rematch of last year's final would again favor Prep's physical style.
First round: Omaha Marian over Lincoln East, Omaha Westside over Millard West, Millard North over Lincoln Southwest, Lincoln Southeast over North Platte
Semifinals: Omaha Marian over Omaha Westside, Millard North over Lincoln Southeast
Final: Omaha Marian over Millard North
Sleeper: Millard West
Comments: A loaded field could make for some upsets, but if any combination of Marian, Millard North and Lincoln Southeast doesn't reach the championship match, it will be a surprise. Marian was pushed by Millard West (a possible semifinal opponent) in a pair of 1-0 wins this season. The Crusaders are 6-1 in matches decided by one goal and went 2-1 against defending champion Millard North — the Mustangs' only two losses. Southeast is more than capable of reaching its second straight final, as it showed in a 5-1 victory against Millard West on the regular-season's final weekend. North Carolina recruit Paige Nielsen leads an explosive Southeast attack.
First round: South Sioux City over Grand Island Northwest, Lincoln Pius X over Lexington, Omaha Skutt over Hastings, Gretna over Schuyler
Semifinals: South Sioux City over Lincoln Pius X, Omaha Skutt over Gretna
Final: South Sioux City over Omaha Skutt
Comments: Lots of parity in this field. Each of the eight teams has a valid reason for hope entering the tournament, including all four picked to lose in the first round. Eighth-seeded Hastings may have eight losses, but five came to teams still playing at state. Lexington beat Pius in a shootout last year. Four of its losses came to teams in the Class A field. Grand Island Northwest has won nine of 10 since a 2-0 loss to Gretna in early April. Schuyler lost a match on the opening weekend, and then kept winning until a district final setback to South Sioux City. A Skutt-Gretna semifinal would be Part III of the season series (Skutt won both of the previous close meetings). Despite all of its regular-season success, South Sioux City has played for only one state title and lost in the championship in 2001. Their nonstop attack could produce a crown this season.
First round: Omaha Skutt over Gering, Elkhorn South over Lincoln Pius X, Gretna over Columbus Scotus, Hastings over Platteview
Semifinals: Omaha Skutt over Elkhorn South, Gretna over Hastings
Final: Omaha Skutt over Gretna
Sleeper: Columbus Scotus
Comments: It appears to be three-time defending champion Skutt, and then everyone else in this field. In four wins against other tournament teams (Columbus Scotus, Gretna and Elkhorn South twice) the SkyHawks outscored their opponents 11-1. Only one team has scored more than one goal on Skutt all season. Both Elkhorn South and Gretna could push Skutt, but each also has tough first-round matches. Elkhorn South-Lincoln Pius X and Gretna-Columbus Scotus are both top five showdowns in the opening round. Despite reaching the state tournament seven times, including the last five seasons, Hastings is still seeking its first win on the big stage.
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