Lady Toppers set for weekend trip to Florida

Junior defender Shayna Dheel (19) drives the ball back upfield against UAB’s midfielder Natalie Presedo (6) during WKU’s 2-0 victory Sunday, Oct. 9, at the WKU Soccer Complex. Matt Lunsford/HERALD

Tyler Mansfield

The WKU women’s soccer team draws closer to the end of its regular-season with a trip to the Sunshine State this weekend to meet Conference USA foes Florida Atlantic University Friday night and Florida International University Sunday afternoon.

The Lady Toppers (10-4-0 overall, 5-1-0 C-USA) are coming off a perfect weekend with shutout wins over longtime rival Middle Tennessee State University (1-0) and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (2-0). With the pair of victories, the club took sole possession of first place in the league standings.

WKU has won seven out of its last eight matches as the team has collected 15 points in C-USA play. Following Sunday’s check in the win column, it also marked the Lady Tops’ eighth of the season, five of which have come in conference play.

Riding that two-match winning streak and sitting atop the standings, WKU will have its hands full against two dominant Florida teams this upcoming weekend.

The Owls (7-6-2, 3-2-1 C-USA) are coming off a 0-0, double-overtime draw against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In the loss, FAU was outshot, 14-9 and couldn’t seem to find an offensive rhythm throughout the game.

Dual-threat senior forward Sammy Rowland leads the Owls’ offensive attack. Rowland has started and played in each game this season and has scored five goals on 38 shots and assisted twice for a total of 12 points.

On defense, redshirt senior goalkeeper Sydney Drinkwater is the steady net defender. Drinkwater has played 1,263:09 total minutes this year and has made 60 saves with a save percentage of .845. The 5-foot-9 threat holds a 6-6-2 record when in goal.

On Sunday, WKU will meet the fellow Florida team, the Panthers (2-8-2, 1-3-1 C-USA), who are 0-3-0 at home this year. In their last outing at Louisiana Tech University on Wednesday, Oct. 5, they fell 2-0 to the Bulldogs. Before welcoming the Lady Tops into Miami, FIU will square off with Marshall University Friday evening.

Florida International is paced by senior midfielder Alyssa Robinson. On the season, Robinson has been able to score four goals on 24 shots for eight total points. The scoring threat has also recorded 13 shots on goal and holds a percentage of .542.

In its last outing against UAB, WKU came out of the gates firing and it resulted in two different Lady Tops scoring to lead the team to the two-goal victory, as both senior forward Iris Dunn and freshman forward Chandler Backes found the back of the net.

Backes, who scored her 10th goal of the season in the victory, currently leads all of C-USA in that category and is first among freshmen with the tally.

On the defensive side of the ball for WKU, the unit has been hard to score on this year, especially in the last month and a half.

Over the last six consecutive weeks, the Lady Tops have seen one of its own named a C-USA Player of the Week, which is a league record.

Backes was tabbed Offensive Player of the Week on Tuesday, Sept. 6 to begin the streak while senior defenders Olivia Fitzgerald and Makenzie Costner and sophomore midfielder Nicole Roseland were all given the Defensive Player of the Week honor from Sept. 12-26 and most recently junior goalkeeper Allison Leone was awarded the Goalkeeper of the Week honor both on Oct. 3 and 10.

WKU and Florida Atlantic are scheduled to kickoff at 6 p.m. in Boca Raton, Florida while the Lady Tops are set to meet Florida International in Miami at 12 p.m.

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