Nine home games highlight 2015 soccer schedule

Sophomore forward Iris Dunn battles University of Tennessee’s Carlyn Baldwin (11), Susan Ferguson (20), and Cheyenne Spade (6) for possession of the ball during the first half of WKU’s Sept. 5 match. The Lady Hilltoppers lost 2-0 to the Lady Volunteers. Brandon Carter/HERALD

Jonah Phillips

Nine home matches highlight the 2015 WKU soccer schedule head coach Jason Neidell announced Tuesday afternoon.

After finishing their inaugural season in the Conference USA with a 10-8 mark, the Lady Toppers enter their sophomore season in the league with a more difficult strength of schedule. 

The 18-game schedule will feature three games against 2014 NCAA tournament teams, eight opponents who won at least 12 games last season, five opponents that WKU has never faced in program history, and two teams that went undefeated in league play last year (Valparaiso and Stephen F. Austin).

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The Lady Toppers’ non-conference slate features Tennessee Martin, Miami (Ohio), LSU, Stephen F. Austin, Valparaiso, Mercer, Gerogia State, and Memphis—a group that combined for a 90-49-21 mark last season and collected three conference titles. 

“I am excited about the challenges and opportunities that this schedule presents for our young team,” Neidell said via press release. “Our trip to Georgia will be an awesome homecoming for our five players from the Atlanta area.” 

WKU’s 10-8 record last season marked the 12th time that the team has reached double-digit wins in its 14-year history.

The Lady Tops bring back 17 letterwinners from last season.  Top scorers senior Lauren Moats (seven goals in 2014) and junior Iris Dunn (five goals in 2014) return to the hill to lead the offensive charge while Senior Chandler Clark and Junior Olivia Fitzgerald return to anchor the Lady Topper defense.

Eight newcomers will also be added to the 2015 roster as freshmen or transfers.

Preseason matchups against Xavier and Northern Kentucky are schedule for August 14 and 16 respectively, with Xavier coming to Bowling Green and the Lady Toppers traveling to Highlands Heights to clash with NKU.  

The aforementioned five first-time opponents the Lady Tops will face will begin the season for WKU—Tennessee Martin, Miami (Ohio), LSU, Stephen F. Austin, and Valparaiso. 

After venturing through previously uncharted waters, the Lady Toppers will round out their non-conference slate with matchups against familiar foes Mercer, Georgia State, and Memphis. 

“More importantly, I believe a tough non-conference schedule will help prepare us for the demands of Conference USA,” Neidell said. “Within the conference, we are eager to renew old rivalries with Florida International and Florida Atlantic, as well as kick-off the conference race with a rematch against Rice here in Bowling Green.”

The first league match of the 2015 season will feature defending C-USA champion Rice in Bowling Green on September 25. The Owls knocked the Lady Toppers out in the quarterfinals of the C-USA championships last season 1-0 and went on to win the tournament.

FIU is set to host the C-USA Women’s Soccer Championship on November 4-8 in Miami.  The top eight teams in the league receive an invite to the tournament.  The Lady Toppers received a seven seed last year.