Competitive contests keep Lady Tops quiet

WKU’s defender Makenzie Costner (25) drives the ball down the field during the Lady Toppers’ 3-1 win over University of Tennessee-Martin in the season opener Aug. 21 at the WKU Soccer Complex. William Kolb/HERALD

Hunter Frint

WKU’s soccer team hit the road this past weekend for a two game swing that resulted in a loss against an undefeated Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro on Friday and a draw with the University of Alabama, Birmingham in Birmingham on Sunday.

Middle Tennessee came into Friday’s game undefeated in Conference USA, and WKU fell with a final score of 2-0, which moved them to 2-1-1 in C-USA and 6-4-3 on the season.

The Blue Raiders’ win helped them improve to 8-3-1 and keep their conference record perfect at 4-0.

MTSU made the first goal of the game in the 28th minute via freshman defender Morgan Mauck.

In the 87th minute, senior forward Tori Hawkins, assisted by freshman midfielder Jessica Steen, scored MTSU’s second and the game’s final goal.

“Middle Tennessee is a good team. They were in first place [in C-USA] going into the game,” Head Coach Jason Neidell said. “We played very well going into the first half, but we didn’t play very well going in to the second half.”

Neidell’s squad mustered 13 shots on the contest to MTSU’s 12, but wasn’t able to find the net.

“We felt like we got outplayed in the second half,” Neidell said. “Unfortunate to lose the game, but on the day, I got to give credit to Middle Tennessee. They were the better team.”

The keepers for both teams worked hard Friday night, and the game ended with WKU sophomore keeper Allison Leone’s three saves and MTSU keeper Kelsey Brouwer’s five.

“It was pouring down rain for a good chunk of the game. [MTSU] got a goal lead on us, and they were able to kind of sit in and absorb the pressure. Given the conditions, it was very, very hard to build an attack and break them down,” said Neidell.

WKU then traveled to Birmingham, Alabama, to take on UAB. The teams had only faced each other once before in Bowling Green in a contest that ended with a 1-0 WKU victory during the 2014 season.

“Middle Tennessee and UAB play very similarly, so really when we got to prepare for the weekend, we got to prepare for both teams kind of the same way,” Neidell said. “That was good to play two teams that play a comparable style.”

The match on Sunday started with the Lady Toppers falling behind 1-0 in the first half.

Kacey Johnson got things going for UAB in the 11th minute when she put a header into the net, but this was the only goal scored during the first half.

In the second half, the Lady Toppers were hungry for a goal. During the 46th minute, players piled up in the UAB box, and confusion ensued. The ball went back and forth until it was sent to the back of UAB’s net. Ruled a UAB own goal, it evened the score. 

WKU came out stronger in the second half with 12 shots and added five in overtime while holding UAB to three shots in the second half. 

Leone put forth a strong effort to keep UAB out of the net in the second half and finished the double-overtime draw with eight saves in the game: a season high for the sophomore who now has 60 saves on the season.

This is WKU’s fifth overtime game this season, and the draw brings the team to 6-4-4 on the season and 2-2-2 in Conference USA. UAB is now 2-9-1 overall and 1-3-1 C-USA.

“We didn’t play very well in the first half, but we came out in the second half and played some of the best soccer this season,” said Neidell. “UAB cleared three balls off the goal line in the second half, and we felt like we played a strong game, and it’s just unfortunate not to get a better result than a draw.”

The Lady Toppers will return home for a much-deserved home game against Florida International University on Friday at 6 p.m. at the WKU Soccer Complex. They will then hit the road again to face the Charlotte 49ers on Sunday at noon.