Lady Toppers hang tight, draw vs. Valparaiso

WKU’s forward Hannah Cady (20) collides with Valparaiso’s Sydney Gountounas (14) during the Lady Toppers’ 2-2 tied game against the Crusaders on Sunday at WKU’s Preston Complex. 

Hunter Frint

The Lady Topper soccer team fought back this past Sunday against Valparaiso, ending their third home-match of the season in a 2-2 draw after extra time.   

WKU played host to Valpo at the WKU Soccer Complex on Sunday in a humid, 90-degree affair. 

Within the first 11 minutes, Valpo midfielder Rita Cravens scored the first goal of the match.  

The Lady Toppers had trouble dealing with the pace of Valpo’s game in the first half and racked up eight fouls. 

The first half ended with three shots for the Lady Toppers—one on goal. The offensive production in the first half came from senior Lauren Moats and sophomore Hannah Chua. Valpo collected six shots with two on goal, but the score remained 1-0. 

“Tactically, their outside backs kept coming forward and finding the ball in the first half. It was causing us all kinds of problems. We weren’t doing a very good job of picking that up,” Head Coach Jason Neidell said. 

Neidell said adjustments at halftime were geared towards bringing a more aggressive style of play into the fold.  

“I think that they just brought a higher level of intensity and work to the game than we did in the first half,” Neidell said. “We just knew we needed to match their intensity in the second half.” 

The second half started similar to the first, though, and the intensity Neidell was looking for didn’t immediately present itself. Two 30-minute lightning delays also stalled play. 

Minutes after the second half began, Valpo’s April Cronin scored her team’s second goal and brought the score to 2-0. 

The lightning delays arguably worked in the Lady Toppers’ favor. Iris Dunn came back into the game with a vengeance. She collected a shot on goal and followed through with the first goal for the Lady Toppers, making the score 2-1. 

“No. 20 [Cronin] and 12 [Craven] for [Valpo] were difference makers. They scored their goals,” Neidell said. “I thought Iris Dunn was a definite difference maker for us today. I thought she had a phenomenal game.” 

Dunn’s goal came off a penalty kick, the first one for WKU this season and the third goal for Dunn in 2015. 

Shortly after the morale booster for WKU, the second lightning delay was called with 22 minutes left in the game. The match had only been resumed from the first delay for six minutes. 

Players, coaches and fans all stood by to see if the referees were going to call the game due to the impending storm.

WKU and Valpo needed two minutes of playtime to legally call it, so they endured the 30-minute delay.

The second half was resumed once the weather cleared. Senior defender Chandler Clark scored a second goal for the Lady Toppers shortly after.

“To me, coming from behind, down by two goals was a little bit of a moral victory. Today I think we found ourselves a little bit,” Neidell said.

With the match tied at 2-2, two 10-minute periods of extra time were added, but these still yielded no winner. 

Neidell said the team was feeling really good about the come-from-behind win. 

“Didn’t feel like we came out and played very well at the beginning of the game and didn’t match Valpo’s intensity,” said Neidell. “But I think to come back from two goals down against the defending Horizon League Champs and the team that’s picked to win the Horizon League again says a lot about our team.” 

WKU will resume play this coming weekend. The Lady Toppers will face Mercer on Friday, Sept. 11, at 6:00 p.m. and then Georgia State on Sunday, Sept. 13, at noon in Macon and Atlanta respectively. 

“I think it’s something that we can definitely build on,” Neidell said. “It was a really encouraging second half, and I think that our players feel really, really good about themselves right now.”