Lady Tops end season, earn honors

Tyler Mansfield

The WKU women’s soccer team had quite the regular season and with the dominance it was able to present, it racked up a handful of Conference USA accolades in the league’s official release on Tuesday afternoon.

Head Coach Jason Neidell, who is in his 16th season at the helm, was named the 2016 C-USA Coach of the Year while five Lady Toppers in senior defender Olivia Fitzgerald, sophomore midfielder Nicole Roseland, senior forward Iris Dunn, junior goalkeeper Allison Leone and freshman forward Chandler Backes were all tabbed with All-C-USA Team honors.

Neidell’s Coach of the Year honor is the coach’s first since the program joined C-USA prior to the 2014 season, but the third of his career, as he earned the award in 2007 and 2013 as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.

The only coach WKU has ever had currently has an overall record of 180-101-33 (62 percent) as the 12 wins the Lady Tops have recorded this year are the most they’ve had in a single season since 2012.

Fitzgerald and Roseland were both named to the All-C-USA First Team and Dunn and Leone were placed on the Second Team while Backes landed on both the Third Team and the All-Freshman Team.

The all-conference honors were the first of each athlete’s career except for Dunn, who earned Third Team honors last season.

After being selected to finish eighth in the preseason C-USA poll, WKU outperformed the prediction by five spots as it finished third in the conference behind the University of North Texas and Rice University.

The Lady Tops went 7-3-0 in C-USA contention and gave up only four goals against league opponents, which was the fewest in the league.

WKU opened its C-USA slate with four straight wins, and didn’t surrender a single goal in that time frame — a shutout streak that lasted 533 total minutes and was the third longest in the nation, until a 2-1 setback on the road in Denton, Texas, against the reigning champion Mean Green.

Although they didn’t win that certain match in the Lonestar State, the Lady Tops did make history as they picked up their first ever win versus the Rice Owls in a 1-0 shutout win back on Friday, Sept. 30, in Houston.

The check in the win column sat WKU atop of the league standings, a place it battled for all season long.

Most of its season may have been nicely played, but WKU did get off to a shaky start on this season’s campaign.

The Lady Tops grabbed a 7-1 victory on the road at the University of Tennessee Martin on Friday, Aug. 19, but after that dropped two-straight at the University of Memphis (2-0 on Sunday, Aug. 21) and at Miami (Ohio) (3-2 2OT on Friday, Aug. 26).

However, the Lady Tops turned things around and began to play dominant soccer.

Over the course of their next eight contests, the Lady Tops went 7-1 as they beat Austin Peay State University, Georgia State University, Morehead State University, Marshall University, Belmont University, the University of Southern Mississippi and Rice University while just suffering a tough 1-0 defeat against Southeastern Conference foe Louisiana State University.

WKU dropped a 1-0 decision to Old Dominion University to close out its regular-season on Friday, Oct. 28, but it’ll be entering the C-USA Women’s Soccer Tournament, which begins Wednesday evening in Charlotte, North Carolina, with total confidence that it could return to Bowling Green with a trophy.

The match against Charlotte hadn’t been played, as of press time.

The third-seeded Lady Tops are set to square off with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the tournament host, at 6 p.m. at Transamerica Field.

WKU (12-6-0 overall, 7-3-0 C-USA) and the 49ers (9-8-1, 5-4-1 C-USA) did not meet in the regular-season, but the two sides have split the two meetings in program history.

Reporter Tyler Mansfield can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMansfield.