The WKU women’s soccer team split a pair of matches in the Sunshine State this weekend on its final road swing of the 2016 season.
The Lady Toppers (11-5-0 overall, 6-2-0 Conference USA) suffered a 1-0 shutout to Florida Atlantic University on Friday evening, but then turned things around and defeated Florida International University 1-0 on Sunday afternoon.
Friday, against the Owls, an early goal by FAU held for the entire 90 minutes and WKU would never find the equalizer.
The Lady Tops attempted just five total shots, including a team-high two by redshirt sophomore midfielder Sarah Gorham.
In the fifth minute of the match, Florida Atlantic’s freshman midfielder Elisha Holmes found the back of the net off of a rebound that followed freshman midfielder Mary O’Hara’s attempt.
O’Hara sent a shot through the box that hit the goal post and ended up coming to the foot of Holmes, who recorded her second goal of the year.
The score was just the third first-half goal WKU and junior goalkeeper Allison Leone had allowed on the season.
In goal for the Lady Tops, Leone saved three of four shots on goal, as she carried back-to-back C-USA Goalkeeper of the Week honors.
WKU’s best chance in the opening half came off the foot of sophomore midfielder Nicole Roseland. The midfielder sent a shot over the crossbar at the 41-minute mark. At halftime, the Lady Tops trailed by the one-goal.
Coming out of the locker room, Leone made all three of her saves to keep WKU’s deficit at 1-0.
In the 70 minute mark, freshman forward Chandler Backes fired a shot on goal, which would be the Lady Tops’ lone one, but FAU’s redshirt senior goalkeeper Sydney Drinkwater saved it, and WKU would suffer the defeat.
In the 62 minute mark of Sunday’s affair, junior midfielder Hannah Chua netted the eventual match winner off her head in a victory that clinched WKU a spot in the C-USA Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina, which takes place next month.
Chua’s second goal of the season helped set the Lady Tops back on top of the C-USA standings with 18 points, just ahead of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Florida Atlantic, who are tied for second with 16 points.
Sunday’s shutout was WKU’s ninth of the season. The Lady Tops have also just allowed just 11 goals on the campaign, which is the lowest mark among all league clubs.
Senior midfielder Caitlin Hesse led all players with four shots while Roseland’s two shots on goal were the most among all players.
WKU outshot the Panthers 16-7 and also held them to just three shots on goal. Senior defenders Dee Dee Green and Olivia Fitzgerald each earned assists on Chua’s score.
Between the posts for the Lady Tops, Leone picked up her eighth solo shutout of the year while saving three shots and holding FIU scoreless while playing the full 90 minutes.
WKU’s offense came out of the gates firing, as it tried three shots and earned three corner kicks against Florida International’s defense over the opening 10 minutes.
Hesse, senior forward Iris Dunn and senior defender Makenzie Costner all had an attempt but couldn’t find the back of the net in the early part of the matchup.
Just before halftime, Green had a shot on goal after finding space, but the Panthers’ senior goalkeeper Sophia Trujillo was there for the save, as the two sides were scoreless heading into the locker rooms.
Chua was credited for the match-winning goal as she scored off of a pass from Fitzgerald which was initially set up by Green’s corner kick at the 61:19-minute mark.
Green played the ball to the far side, and Fitzgerald made the short pass to the junior for the go-ahead score to give WKU the 1-0 lead with under 30 minutes to play.
FIU’s senior midfielder Alyssa Robinson was almost able to find the equalizer in the 87-minute mark as she tested Leone on a strike, but the junior came up with a save to keep the Panthers off the scoreboard.
Less than a minute later, junior midfielder Paula Quintero sent a shot wide right as the Lady Tops escaped with a win to close out the Florida trip.
WKU will return to action Thursday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. as it hosts the University of Texas-San Antonio at the WKU Soccer Complex.
The Lady Tops are 2-0 all-time versus the Roadrunners after earning a pair of victories since joining C-USA before the 2014 season.
Reporter Tyler Mansfield can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @ByMansfield.