Lady Tops prepared for SEC challenge

WKU midfielder Hannah Chua (2) battles for possession of the ball against a Mercer player Sunday in a non-conference matchup in Bowling Green. WKU would go on to win the game 1-0. Luke Franke/HERALD

John Reecer

The WKU Lady Topper soccer team will host the Tennessee Lady Volunteers on Friday at 6 p.m. at the WKU Soccer Complex in a rematch of last year’s 0-0 double-overtime tie.

The Lady Toppers managed a draw with the Lady Volunteers despite a 36-10 shot attempt disadvantage. Tennessee attempted a total of 11 shots on goal and WKU attempted just one in the full 110 minutes. 

Head Coach Jason Neidell said the team is approaching its match with Tennessee the same as it would any other opponent.

“It’s just like any other game,” Neidell said. “We have some scouting reports on Tennessee that we are viewing, and we are still trying to figure out ourselves a little bit as a team.”

The Lady Volunteers are 1-2 on the season and coming off a 1-0 defeat to No. 23 BYU. Tennessee’s roster is loaded with athleticism, being a Southeastern Conference opponent, according to sophomore forward Iris Dunn.

“They are just big and strong and they will be a good opponent for us,” she said. “I think we were a better team than we were last year and hopefully we will be able to put up a pretty good game.”

Dunn went on to say that the Lady Toppers are planning to operate on offense more smoothly than in their tie with the Lady Volunteers last season.

“As a team, we’re going to want to be able to attack and dictate the game more so than we did last year,” Dunn said. “I think we’re going to not let as many shots off on our goalkeeper and hopefully we are tough on defense.”

Not only will Tennessee’s athleticism be an issue for the Lady Toppers, but Neidell said the Lady Volunteers also bring a challenging style of play. 

“Tennessee plays a system that we’ll only see this one time for the rest of the season,” Neidell said. “It’s a little bit difficult to prepare for that just because we haven’t seen it, nor will we see it. They really like to press their outside backs forward quite a bit and they like to try to knock the ball around your end and eventually get it to Hannah Wilkinson who is a very, very good player.”

Wilkinson, a senior forward, has a total of 15 goals and six assists in her career.

Friday’s match may dish out several new challenges for the Lady Toppers early on in their season, but the expectations remain the same.

“We play every game to win,” Neidell said. “We have talked about the non-conference schedule being a learning process. It’s not really about results, it’s about becoming better as a team, so we are firing on all cylinders by the time conference play starts.”