Postseason accolades follow exit from C-USA tournament

Marshall’s forward Erin Simmons (32) challenges WKU’s defender Chandler Clark (31) for the ball during the Lady Toppers’ 2-0 loss Friday at the WKU Soccer Complex. Weston Kenney/Special to the Herald 

Hunter Frint

While the Lady Toppers fell to North Texas 1-0 in the first round of the Conference USA Championships, they tabbed four players to All-Conference teams and three to All-Academic teams.

WKU ranked eighth going into the Conference USA Championships in Miami on Wednesday; it was the lowest seeded team in the tournament. WKU fought hard to claim the final place in the tournament, losing just one of its final five regular-season games, but was pitted against regular-season champions and No. 1 seed North Texas in the opening round.

The Lady Toppers held the top-ranked team to just three shots on goal for the entire contest and mustered six of their own, but North Texas scored with four seconds left, plus stoppage time, in the first half.

The defense played by North Texas was good enough to claim its 14th shutout of the 2015 season though the Lady Toppers put six shots on goal.

WKU outshot North Texas with 16 shots, six on goal, while holding the Mean Green to just eight shots — half their season average of 16.

The Lady Toppers end the season with an 8-6-5 record overall and a 4-3-3 record in C-USA play.

“We felt really good about the way we played. Unfortunately we gave up a goal with four seconds left in the first half and it ended up being the decisive measure of the game,” Head Coach Jason Neidell said.

Neidell said the same struggles the team faced in the later stages of the regular season haunted them in this postseason clash.

“Just like it was all during the late part of the season, we were really good in our possession [but] just had trouble converting our chances into goals,” Neidell said. “Obviously that’s a huge part of the game, and that’s the next piece next season for us to work on.”

North Texas moved on in the tournament to take on Middle Tennessee in the semifinals and secured a 1-0 victory over the Blue Raiders.

This advanced North Texas to the finals on Sunday, when the Mean Green won their first Conference USA Championship 1-0 against Marshall.

While the loss ended the season for the Lady Toppers, several players received the honor of being named to the C-USA All-Academic teams and All-Conference teams.

The league announced Wednesday that three WKU student-athletes were  named to the All-Academic team. First team honors were awarded to junior midfielder Caitlin Hesse while senior defender Chandler Clark and junior forward Iris Dunn were named to the second team.

“It’s fantastic for them. You know, they work hard in the classroom, they work hard on the soccer field and obviously those are well deserved honors for them,” said Neidell.

Four players were named to the All-Conference teams: Clark, Dunn, sophomore midfielder Hannah Chua and freshman midfielder Nicole Roseland. Clark earned first team honors, Chua was awarded to second team and Dunn was named third team. Roseland earned a spot on the All-Freshmen team.

“It says a lot about our team and about those individuals, how they were able to receive that kind of recognition at the conference level,” said Neidell.

Clark leaves the Lady Toppers this year with a playing time of all but 54 minutes on the backline and three assists: the second most totaled on the team.

As a freshman, Roseland has clocked playtime in all 18 games the Lady Toppers have played this season and started in 15 of those matches.

Chua and Dunn are tied for leading the team with the most goals, five, as well as their leading position on the team with 11 points contributed. The duo has netted a total of four game-winning goals this season with two apiece.

“From the beginning to end, I thought we saw some really fantastic progress from our team,” Neidell said. “It’s unfortunate at the end of the season that we were playing great soccer but just missing that final piece of stability to convert chances into goals, and that’s something that we’ll be trying to fix in our development. We’ve already got a set of goals regarding the championship next year.”