Lady Topper soccer with two tough games away from home

WKU midfielder Hannah Chua (2) moves the ball downfield as Memphis University defender Olivia Gauthier (16) challenges her during the second half of the Lady Toppers’ 2-1 win Friday night at the WKU Soccer Complex. Chua scored from outside the box late in the match to give the Lady Tops the win. Gabriel Scarlett/HERALD

Hunter Frint

The Lady Topper soccer team will be taking a couple of road trips this weekend to face two impressive opponents in Middle Tennessee State University on Friday and the University of Alabama, Birmingham on Sunday.

The team will first travel to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on Friday to go head-to-head with the top-ranked team in Conference USA and the only C-USA team that has won each of its league contests.

With an overall record of 7-3-1, MTSU will pose several challenges for the Lady Toppers.

“Middle Tennessee is in first place in the league, so they’re going to be a formidable opponent on Friday night,” said WKU Head Coach Jason Neidell.

The Blue Raiders come into the match off of a 1-0 victory played last Sunday against the Charlotte 49ers. The win put them at 3-0-0 in C-USA, a first in the history of the MTSU women’s soccer program.

Senior Blue Raider keeper Kelsey Brouwer comes into the competition on Friday as a huge asset after she was named C-USA Goalkeeper of the Week.

The award was given to Brouwer after she tabbed seven saves against Charlotte and secured her sixth clean sheet of the season. The nod marked Brouwer’s second C-USA Player of the Week this year and the fourth of her career.

The Lady Toppers will enter the match with a C-USA Player of the Week of their own: freshman dual-threat midfielder and defender Megan Morris. Morris was awarded C-USA Co-Defensive Player of the Week after scoring the winning goal against the University of Texas, El Paso on Friday.

“Even though she is just a freshman, she is one of our most consistent players,” Neidell said of Morris.

Her level of consistency is partially why Neidell was so pleased with Morris’ play and accolades over the past week.

“It was great to see her score her first career goal, and she is so deserving of being named our first player of the week for the 2015-2016 season,” Neidell said.

WKU will later travel to Birmingham, Alabama, to face UAB, who is coming off a 2-1 loss to Louisiana Tech. The Lady Toppers recently beat La. Tech 1-0 on Sept. 27 for their first C-USA win.

While the Blazers are 1-9 this season, Neidell said statistics and records can be deceiving when preparing for an opponent.

“It’s always difficult to play a team that’s better than the records,” Neidell said. “They’re probably one of the best teams in the country.”

Neidell firmly believes the Blazers squad his team will face is much better than its record suggests, and he stressed a strong mentality as a key to victory.

“I think it’s psychologically difficult to prepare for those kinds of games because your players tend to think that you’re playing an opponent that’s not as good, and that’s just not the case,” Neidell said. “UAB’s a very quality opponent. It’s just been unfortunate, some of their results.”

WKU was faced with a similar challenge this past Sunday when it played against the University of Texas, San Antonio (1-10), who put up a fight much more impressive than its season records showed.

Neidell thinks the Lady Toppers will see that kind of opponent in UAB.

WKU goes into this weekend with a tie and a win from its last road trip to Texas, and the team’s spirits are high. The team is now 6-3-3 on the season and 2-1-1 in the C-USA.

“I think we feel pretty good about our body of work so far. I mean, we’re sitting in a tie for first place in the league,” Neidell said. “Of course, it’s only a foundation; we’ve got a lot of games left to be played, but I think we’ve put ourselves in a good spot. If we can continue to play well, we’ll continue to get the results we need to move on.”