Update on Lady Topper soccer: Neidell and team happy to be back

Jason Neidell is entering his 20th season as the head coach of the women’s soccer team at WKU. Neidell transitioned from playing soccer growing up, to teaching the game. “I had goals and dreams of being a professional player when I was growing up in elementary school, high school, but I never thought about coaching,” Neidell said.

Nick Kieser

Since returning back to the Hill July 6, the WKU women’s soccer program has been back in action in preparation for a season, now slated for the spring of 2021. 

The Lady Toppers have 27 players at practices and have been in the company of one another for the first time since March, along with a few new faces on the field. 

“The thing I like the most is the excitement of our players and our team to be back on the field together,” head coach Jason Neidell said. “We were sent home in March and hadn’t seen each other in a great length of time, so to have the team back together again just smiling on the field and enjoying each other’s company, enjoying competing has been really exciting and really nice for our players and for our coaching staff.” 

Due to their season being postponed, the Lady Toppers will take the field in the spring after what Neidell said was a developmental 2020 campaign. Entering into year 20 of being at the helm Neidell has more time to prepare for a season. 

“There was a sense of disappointment. They are competitors and want to compete and to have that pulled out from under you, even if you knew it was coming, it was pretty tough,” Neidell said. “I am kind of a glass half full kind of guy and there is a lot of good things to take from the postponement.” 

One of the things the Lady Toppers can use with the extra time is allowing the freshmen who just arrived this fall time to adjust to campus life, a new team, and train prior to the 2021 spring season. 

“In particular we had two players coming off of two ACL injuries that are going to have some continued time to get back,” Neidell said. “We have two really young sophomore goalkeepers with very limited college experience, so they are going to get some additional experience before we have to go to battle in the spring.”

Sophomores Ashley Kobylinski and Afton Schraml will backstop the Lady Toppers in net this upcoming season. Neidell said he has been pleasantly surprised with the level of development in the past three to four weeks. 

“They are still trying to learn their technical traits so to speak at the college level,” Neidell said. “Our goalkeeper coach has her work cut out for her, she’s loving every minute of it. She’s not only tasked with helping them develop as players but as people and she’s tasked with the role of being a mentor for them. So far things are going very well.”

Neidell said he would love to play three to five scrimmages this fall, and that as far as the spring goes there is a lot of speculation as to what that might look like, however nothing is official yet. 

An additional element has also been added to the program in senior midfielder Sophia Fondren. The Frisco, Texas native played in 57 games at Stephen F. Austin tallying nine goals and 18 assists. 

“We were looking for another midfield piece really the entire summer,” Neidell said. “We developed a really quick connection, a really good relationship with her. We felt like we had a missing piece in the midfield, an attacking presence, and I really feel like she’s going to bring some to our team.” 

Neidell added that Fondren is a blessing disguise because she has two years due to her academic agenda, transfer credits and whatnot. 

“She reads the game really well and she is really good at finding the final pass, which is something I think has been missing from our team the last couple of years,” Neidell said.  

Back on July 31 Neidell and the program paused all activity due to a reported positive COVID-19 case. As soon as Neidell and his staff had an inkling that one of his players had the virus practice was shut down. 

“All of these parents have entrusted me with the health and care of their daughters. That’s my primary responsibility is to make sure we are keeping these kids safe,” Neidell said. 

He added that it was pretty stressful to know that he was tasked with taking care of these kids. Neidell said going through that process has the program in a much better place. 

The athletes on the team also have a daily survey to take prior to leaving their residents. Neidell said it’s an optional survey but that close to 100% participation has been beneficial in catching things early and knowing that his players are ready for practices. 

“We’re just really happy to be out there and really happy to be among each other’s company,” Neidell said. “The smile I see on those kids faces right now whether we compete or not is enough for me, and giving these kids an environment that is an escape from all of the other things going on in the world right now.”

Sports Editor Nick Kieser can be reached at [email protected] Follow Nick on Twitter at @KieserNick.