Freshmen shine as WKU soccer blanks Belmont in opener

Ansley Cate (20) brings the ball upfield during a match against Belmont at the WKU Soccer Complex on Thursday, Aug 22, 2019. The WKU soccer team defeated Belmont in its season opener, 5-0.

Elliott Wells

The WKU soccer team opened the regular season against Belmont on Thursday night at the WKU Soccer Complex, and four different Lady Toppers scored in a 5-0 win — the largest shutout margin of victory in a season opener in program history.

WKU had a total of 18 shots on the night. Senior forward Chandler Backes and sophomore midfielder Ambere Barnett both recorded four shots in 50 minutes of play, while junior defender Victoria Mayo and freshman forward Ansley Cate both recorded two shots in 47 minutes of action.

Head coach Jason Neidell said his Lady Toppers “played with a great mentality and incredible intensity.”

“Getting out there with our front foot is really, really important,” Neidel said postgame. “The last couple of seasons there have been times where we are chasing games and it’s very difficult to play from behind. But you know, I think this is a team that can score goals. I think we showed that tonight. I think we have been doing a really good job in the right parts of the field.”

Cate got the ball rolling for the Lady Toppers, as she put in two goals early in the first half.

The Paris, Tennessee, native struck 3:42 minutes into the match after Barnett got loose from Belmont’s outside defender.

Barnett found Cate again six minutes later to double the Lady Toppers’ score. Barnett broke through a Belmont defender and found Cate running across the six for a left-footed finish that put WKU up 2-0 at the 9:44 mark.

Cate said she came into Thursday’s match feeling a bit nervous, but she quickly lost those nerves after putting her team up early in the game.

“It’s really an exciting feeling, but also for me coming out nervous, but also energetic, it just helps me to relax and be confident and gain confidence throughout the entire game,” Cate said postgame.

Another freshman found the back of the net late in the second half. 

Barnett intercepted a pass from a Belmont defender that eventually led her into the box, where she found sophomore Olivia Stanley. Stanley’s header was saved by senior goalkeeper Lily Herman.

Herman’s save fell right in freshman forward Katie Erwin’s lap, leading to a tap-in goal that increased WKU’s lead to 3-0 at the 33:37 mark.

WKU had four corner kicks on the night, one resulting in a goal two minutes after halftime. 

Redshirt junior defender Aleksandra Kožović placed a driven ball in the box that found freshman Sydney Ernst’s head before landing in Barnett’s feet for a tap-in goal. After assisting on two first half goals, Barnett scored a goal of her own to expand WKU’s lead to 4-0 at the 47:38 mark.

The Lady Toppers tucked a fifth goal away in the 79th minute of action to finish their scoring on the night. After missing all three of WKU’s exhibitions, sophomore defender Chelsea Moore found the back of the net with her left foot. 

Redshirt senior goalkeeper Anne-Marie Ulliac was rewarded with 3 saves in 75 minutes of action, while freshman Afton Schraml played 15 minutes for the Lady Toppers. The two goalkeepers combined for a shutout win.

The Lady Toppers will be back in action on Sunday at 1:00 p.m., as they make their first road trip of the season to face Kentucky in Lexington. The game will be broadcast live on the SEC Network+ as well as ESPN3.

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