Chandler Backes leads WKU to victory in final exhibition

Chandler Backes attempts a penalty kick during a shootout after an exhibition match on Sunday night. The WKU soccer team defeated Austin Peay 3-0.

Elliott Wells

The WKU soccer team squared off against Austin Peay on Sunday night at the WKU Soccer Complex, and senior forward Chandler Backes scored two first-half goals to lead the Lady Toppers to a 3-0 win in their final exhibition match.

The shortened 80-minute exhibition contest featured two 30-minute halves followed by a 20-minute golden goal overtime period. During the overtime period, neither team had a shot on goal or executed a goal that would have ended the extra period. 

Head coach Jason Neidell said Backes has been lighting it up in WKU’s preseason training and is hungry to score goals for the team this season.

“It was great to see her get her first couple and get those tucked under her belt and get a little bit of confidence going into the season,” Neidell said postgame.

WKU outshot APSU 10-6 in the match, as Backes led the Lady Toppers with three shots in 56 minutes of action. WKU scored three goals on just 10 shots, while redshirt senior goalkeeper AnneMarie Ulliac played the full 80 minutes, maintained a shutout and made two saves.

Backes got the Lady Toppers on the scoreboard at the 15:07 mark in the first half after sophomore midfielder Ambere Barnett had a shot that was deflected off an APSU defender that eventually found Backes at the far post for a rebound goal.

Backes doubled WKU’s score just four minutes later, making it 2-0 after 20 minutes of play. This time Backes found the back of the net by dribbling to the right of Governors goalkeeper Mary Parker Powell.

Backes said after scoring her second goal of the match, the hat trick was definitely in the back of her mind. Although Backes came just inches away from scoring her third goal early in the second half, she stressed the importance of getting goals early in the match following the team’s victory.

“I think that’s a big theme for our team this year is just getting goals in the first 15 to 20 minutes,” Backes said postgame.

WKU controlled most of the possession in the first half, leading to five shots and three corner kicks. The Lady Toppers saw similar success in the second half by continuing to get players in the attack and getting shots on goal.

Redshirt freshman midfielder Lucy Lyon nearly gave WKU another goal before the end of the first half, as Lyon had a one-on-one with Powell but missed her shot wide left just before the break.

Just under two minutes into the second half, WKU found the back of the net for a third time.

Backes was inches away from scoring her hat trick goal when her shot fired off the crossbar and found freshman forward Ansley Cate on the left side of the field for a rebound goal in the 32nd minute. The goal was Cate’s first as a Lady Topper.

WKU’s defense was stout on Sunday night, as they limited the Governors to only six shots. Only two of APSU’s six shots were targeted on goal. 

With the win, the Lady Toppers finished the last of their three exhibition matches with a 2-1-0 record throughout the three matches.

WKU will begin the regular season on Thursday night at 7 p.m. when Belmont makes the trip to the WKU Soccer Complex. The Lady Toppers are hoping to add another win to their series with the Bruins, as WKU holds a 4-0-1 record that includes a 3-0 shutout win in the last regular season meeting on Sept. 17, 2016.

Reporter Elliott Wells can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow Elliott on Twitter at @ewells5.