Draw keeps WKU soccer’s post-season birth alive

WKU’s forward Lauren Moats (5) collides with Miami Universities defender Dana Miller (21) and goalkeeper Patricia Koutoulas (1) during WKU’s 0-4 loss to Miami on Sunday Aug. 23, 2015 at the WKU Soccer Complex is Bowling Green, Ky.

Hunter Frint

The Lady Toppers finished their regular season Thursday night against Florida Atlantic in Bowling Green in a season finale that proved to be a defensive deadlock.

WKU clinched a postseason birth with the 0-0 draw against the Owls and finished in eighth place in the C-USA standings: the last spot to receive a nod to the C-USA tournament.

The Lady Tops went into a testing seventh double-overtime contest of the season fighting for a win that would secure them a spot in the conference tournament, but the draw left them waiting on other league results before their fate was determined.

The Owls were also on a six-game winning streak, and with the 0-0 draw, Florida Atlantic has not allowed a goal in its last six contests since Oct. 4.

Throughout the contest, the Lady Toppers seemed to be the team on the offensive.

WKU mustered 20 shots, eight on goal, to Florida Atlantic’s 12, two on goal, but the Owls’ redshirt junior keeper Sydney Drinkwater stopped eight shots for a record-setting 10th clean sheet of the season.

“We played another great game. We keep playing really, really well,” Head Coach Jason Neidell said. “We’re just not getting the productivity we need on the attacking end to finish off plays and score goals, but we had a lot of good looks tonight.”

Sophomore midfielder Hannah Chua led WKU in shots with four followed closely by senior forward Lauren Moats, junior midfielder Caitlin Hesse and junior forward Iris Dunn, who each contributed three shots.

WKU’s best look on goal came four minutes into the second overtime period. Moats launched a shot from a set piece from about 25 yards out, but it bounced off the post and out of play.

Neidell was happy with his defense, which allowed just two shots on goal in a game that spanned 110 minutes of play. WKU sophomore keeper Allison Leone grabbed her sixth clean sheet of the season with the shutout.

After the allotted 90 minutes expired with no goals, Neidell and his squad geared up for something they have become very familiar with this season: overtime.

In WKU’s seven overtime contests this season, it has never allowed an opponent to score. However, it has managed just two goals in overtime all season.

As before, the extra periods yielded no offensive production against the Owls, and the final score was kept at 0-0.

“It’s just frustrating for all of us — players and staff — that we’re not able to score some of those goals,” Neidell said, “but we played a tremendous game tonight, and I think we earned a crucial point.”

That point moved WKU to 15 points in the league table, just one point away from missing postseason play. The Lady Toppers move to 8-5-5 on the season and 4-3-3 in C-USA.

Florida Atlantic finished tied for third with Rice with 19 league table points and is now 12-7-1 on the season and 6-3-1 in conference play.

The C-USA postseason will include, in descending order, North Texas (16-3-1, 8-1-1), Marshall (13-3-3, 6-2-2), Florida Atlantic (12-7-1, 6-3-1), Rice (10-6-2, 6-3-1), Middle Tennessee (9-5-4, 5-2-3), Louisiana Tech (12-7-1, 5-4-1), Old Dominion (7-11-1, 5-4-1) and WKU.

This match was the last regular season game for three senior Lady Toppers: defenders Chandler Clark and Alanna Clancey and forward Lauren Moats.

The seniors have been with the team through 40 wins in their time on the Hill and helped usher the WKU soccer program from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA.

“I’ll probably look back on it and really just cherish the moments that we had tonight … this team is awesome,” Moats said after the game and prior to learning of WKU’s postseason birth. “If it was my last time, it was great to play with these girls this year, and tonight was probably a good way to go out if we had to, but there’s still hope.”