Lady Tops with first program win over Memphis

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.

Hunter Frint

The Lady Toppers successfully closed out the non-conference portion of their season Friday with a 2-1 win against the University of Memphis at the WKU Soccer Complex.

WKU (4-2-2) is going into conference play on a five-game undefeated streak and has not taken a loss since Aug. 28 in a 4-1 loss to LSU. In that span, the Lady Toppers took wins against Stephen F. Austin (1-0), Mercer (1-0) and Memphis (2-1) while drawing with Valparaiso (2-2) and Georgia State (1-1).

The win against the 4-2-1 Memphis team was a first for the Lady Toppers, who have faced it three times in program history without a win.

“We knew that they had a lot of speed and a lot of athleticism and like to get forward quickly, run at you with the ball,” Head Coach Jason Neidell said. “[We made] little tweaks in our game plan of just trying to make them play with their back to goal and make them play toward their own goal instead of ours.”

A battle for possession in the midfield characterized the first half with just five shots taken between the two teams. Action was kept to a minimum until junior Iris Dunn scored the first goal in the 34th minute to give WKU a 1-0 edge heading into the break. 

The Lady Toppers showed more attacking determination in the second half and registered a shot in the first five minutes. Senior Chandler Clark made some intense defensive maneuvers that worked in WKU’s favor.

Each team racked up four corners in the second half, which is how Memphis netted their lone goal. Memphis sophomore midfielder Sydney Kingston placed the ball in the back of the net in the 73rd minute off a corner.

The score was tied for just over 10 minutes before sophomore attacking midfielder Hannah Chua spotted a weakness in the Tigers’ defense. She went on a solo run, dribbling around several defenders, and fired a shot from 15 yards out to net her second game-winner and fourth goal of the season.

Dunn and Chua are tied for most goals on the season with four. The first-half goal from Dunn moves her career total to 16 in just three seasons, making her the ninth all-time scorer in program history.

“Iris Dunn was a woman among girls tonight. She was everywhere. And obviously Hannah Chua has three goals in three games,” Neidell said.

Neidell was also quick to mention non-goal scorers as well.

“Megan Morris was incredible defensively for us, and then Caitlin Hesse had a big time second half attacking through the midfield,” Neidell said.

“I told the girls that this is one of the biggest wins; this is a team that we’ve never beaten,” Neidell said. “They are a dominant force in Division I women’s soccer and are always a contender for Top 25. It’s just a big win for our program heading into conference play.”

The Lady Toppers have noticeably improved their game in the last five matches, only giving up four goals in comparison to the nine they dropped in the first three games of the season.

This improvement came just in time to kick off conference play. According to Neidell, the challenging non-conference lineup was designed to prepare WKU for the upcoming conference slate.

“I don’t know that we’ll see a team the rest of the season that’s more athletic than what Memphis posed for us, and I think this is a game that was a critical game for us to play well and have some success heading into conference play,” said Neidell.

First up in Conference USA are Rice and Louisiana Tech at the WKU Soccer Complex on Friday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. respectively.