Lady Toppers win weekend home matches

Senior forward Iris Dunn (12) battles with Austin Peay’s senior defender Mary Ruth Locastro (6) and freshman midfielder Renee Semaan (12) during WKU’s 2-1 victory Sunday, Sept. 4 at the WKU Soccer Complex. Matt Lunsford/HERALD

Tyler Mansfield

The WKU women’s soccer team took the field twice this weekend for two non-conference matches. The two contests would mark the first time the Lady Toppers have played on their home field during the regular-season.

Head Coach Jason Neidell’s club wanted to open its home slate with wins, and that’s exactly what it did as the Toppers defeated Austin Peay State University, 2-1 on Friday night and followed that with a dominating 4-0 victory over Georgia State University on Sunday afternoon.

“It was a little bit of an ugly win, but a win is a win,” Neidell said following WKU’s win against the Governors. “We felt like we’ve played well – well enough to win games, so it was good to get the win.”

Against APSU, the Lady Toppers started out slowly. WKU would search for an opening all throughout the first half, but the Governors’ freshman goalkeeper Mary Parker Powell would control the net and keep all of WKU’s shots from finding the back of the net.

At the 72:12 mark of the match, freshman forward Chandler Backes was able to find the back of the net for the third time this year. Backes fired a high, off-balanced shot from the left side of the box that arced over the goalkeeper to give WKU the 1-0 lead.

“Lots of gray hair – lots of gray hair – that’s what it’s like,” Neidell said in regards to the sequence of goals that were scored in Friday’s meeting. “It’s the game of soccer – you have ups and downs. After we scored that goal, we relaxed a little bit; then we needed to find that second goal.”

With under three minutes remaining in regulation, Austin Peay was able to answer the Lady Topper score off a score from their own freshman midfielder Renee Semaan. The midfielder fired a powerful shot from a far distance outside the box, finding the upper right corner to tie the match at 1-1 and set up overtime.

Just 14 seconds into extra time, junior forward Bria Mosley found a loose ball on the right side of the box, collected it and sent an attempt past Powell into the lower left corner for the game-winning goal. It would be Mosley’s first score since Oct. 12, 2014, when she scored in a 3-1 win over the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“I’m very excited,” Mosley said after notching her first ever match-winning goal. “After the ball was deflected, I just thought to myself, ‘I need to score – I don’t want to be out here this whole 10 minutes.’ We needed to score and I’m glad I could do it.”

On Sunday versus the visiting Panthers, WKU won its second straight game by presenting outstanding defense throughout the match by keeping Georgia State without a single shot.

“We just wanted to come out strong and attack,” sophomore midfielder Megan Morris said. “We feel really good after winning these last two games.”

The Lady Toppers came out firing with five shots and a pair of corner kicks over the course of the first 15 minutes of play. Freshman defender Aleksandra Kozovic, who registered her first career start, nearly found the back of the net on a header in the eighth minute, but GSU’s goalkeeper in senior Brie Haynes was there to keep the home club from striking early.

Morris scored off a great pass from junior defender Shayna Dheel at the 19:40 mark as she took the pass in space and put an attempt on goal that first struck the right post before crossing the line to give WKU a 1-0 advantage.

“We had our moments, but overall we put together a much-better performance throughout 90 minutes,” Neidell stated after Sunday’s win.

Just three minutes following Morris’ goal, Backes was able to double the lead for the Lady Toppers after another strong pass set up the assuming goal. Morris sent a pass to Backes from outside the box, who turned toward the goal and beat the goalkeeper Haynes to the far corner to put WKU up 2-0 after 23 minutes of action.

Backes struck again with a little less than two minutes remaining in the first period. The freshman collected a loose ball and fired a shot past Haynes and into the lower right corner, pushing the Lady Toppers’ lead to 3-0 at halftime.

“Well, we really wanted two wins this weekend, but the major thing we focused on in practice this week was attacking on speed, staying composed and being in the right position,” Backes said. “I think overall, that’s what everyone did on the field.”

Backes currently leads all of Conference USA in both goals scored at five and points at 11 on the season.

At the 68th minute mark, freshman midfielder Christina Bragado was able to score her first career goal on a strike following a corner from Roseland. The freshman recovered the ball inside the box following the kick-in and sent in a low shot to the left side to beat the goalkeeper and give WKU the 4-0 lead.

The Lady Toppers will continue their homestand with another set of matches later in the week – Thursday versus Louisiana State University at 7 p.m. and Sunday against Morehead State University at 1 p.m.

“I thought we had a good weekend,” Neidell said. “We got two wins at home to start the [home] season off.”

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