Lady Toppers fall at home to Vanderbilt

WKU forward Chandler Backes (5) heads the ball as she is defended by Evansville midfielder Maggie Leazer (18) during the Lady Topper’s game against University of Evansville on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017 at WKU Soccer Complex.

Tyler Eaton

After 90 hard fought minutes of back-and-forth soccer, the Lady Toppers soccer team (3-3) ultimately fell at home to Vanderbilt (4-3) 1-0 Friday night, Sept. 8, at the WKU Soccer Complex. 

From the initial whistle, Vandy came out playing high pressure, attacking soccer, resulting in an early corner. Defender Olivia Simmons capitalized, netting what ultimately became the deciding goal only six minutes into the match. The first half, as a whole, was a struggle for the Lady Toppers, as they struggled to execute and build an effective attack. 

“I thought we played really tight in the first half,” headcoach Jason Neidell said after the game. “Our confidence and composure didn’t show very well. Honestly, we were probably lucky to only be down a goal at halftime.” 

These first half struggles were permeated by reckless play, as the Lady Toppers committed 4 first half fouls to the 0 committed by the Lady Commodores. WKU also surrendered six corner kicks in the first 45 minutes, while only earning three of their own. 

“We kind of came out very sporadic and kind of all over the place,” said freshman defender Avery Jacobson. “But, after we settled in and didn’t give them as much respect as we gave them in the first half, and thought of them as more of our equal, it was easier for us to come out and combine with ourselves. I thought in the second half we definitely outplayed them.” 

While this may seem like a bold statement from Jacobson, the Lady Toppers gave plenty of evidence in the last 45 minutes to back her up. WKU executed with a lot more precision in the second half, moving the ball from side-to-side, switching the field to spread the defense out and create scoring opportunities. 

“We just talked at halftime that we wanted to find the opposite side of the field. The players did a really good job of putting our game plan into action in the second half.” 

Many of the scoring opportunities in the second half were created by Jacobson, who sent long cross after long cross into the box to keep the Vandy defense on their toes. Avery and the rest of the WKU backline made it a priority to ignite a previously stale offense. 

“I think we start the attack,” Jacobson would go on to say. “We’re kind of the base of the attack, so if we are sloppy back there, we won’t attack. I think getting the balls in the box is kind of proving that we were there, we were going to play with them, and we weren’t going to back down from them anymore.” 

The Lady Toppers had multiple scoring opportunities in the second half, including a 56th minute free kick off the crossbar from Aleksandra Kozovic. 

After committing zero fouls in the first half, the Lady Commodores committed five in the second half to three from WKU. This reflected the change of mindset from the Lady Toppers, who matched Vandy with three shots in the second half after being outshot 3-2 in the first. 

“We just talked to the team at halftime about having more composure in the second half,” said Coach Neidell. “The girls came out with composure and confidence in the second half, and I thought we had a really good second half.

“I think if we could’ve had two halves like that we might’ve had a different result tonight.” 

This was the theme of the night, as the mood from the team was completely different after the first half and after the game. 

“We’re going to play with anybody. We’re here to play with anybody. We’re not afraid,” said Jacobson. “I think taking everything from the second half today, the heart, the responsibility on ourselves, hopefully going into the game on Sunday we play exactly like we did in the second half of this game.” 

The game on Sunday that Jacobson mentions is a home match up with Samford on Sunday, Sept. 10, at 1:00 p.m. at the WKU Soccer Complex. The Lady Toppers soccer team will look to move to 4-3 in non-conference play on the season. 

“Take away the first half, I feel like we played some really good soccer,” said Coach Neidell, looking ahead to Sunday. “Our training’s been good, our games have been good, and I think the girls have confidence. We’re going to have another formidable challenge ahead of us on Sunday.”