Soccer team starts conference play with wins in Louisiana

Senior forward/defender Andrea Curry hugs teammate freshman midfielder Caitlin Hesse after WKU scored a second goal against Louisiana-Lafayette making the score 2-0.

Jonah Phillips

The Lady Toppers found their formula for offensive and defensive potency this weekend as they opened up Sun Belt Conference play at home.

WKU (4-3-4) was able to chalk up a pair of 2-0 victories this weekend. The team is now riding a three-game winning streak.

“We put in a really good defensive effort,” coach Jason Neidell said of the weekend. “We’ve been pretty good all season long, but I think we were really sharp defensively.”

Their first conference game of the season, Friday against Louisiana-Monroe, was decided by a dominant defensive effort and goals by senior defender Torrie Lange and freshman forward Iris Dunn.

“We really came out and played together, as a team,” Lange said. “Coach has been telling us to put the foot on the gas, don’t let up, and play quickly.”

Lange’s score came off a corner kick from sophomore defender Alanna Clancey, the first assist of her career.

Dunn’s goal, a header off a cross from fellow freshman Haley Baldridge, was her second on the season.

“Offensively, I think we are starting to connect better,” Dunn said. “At the beginning of the season we lacked that final pass and that little ‘umph’ to get the goals we needed to finish.”

WKU’s defense matched the offense. Senior goalkeeper Nora Abolins recorded the 27th shutout of her career and WKU did not allow a shot on goal for the first time since 2007.

Dunn was at it again Sunday against Lousiana-Lafayette — she scored a goal less than five minutes into the game. Freshman midfielder Caitlin Hesse matched her with a goal in the 78th minute, the first of her WKU career, as the Lady Toppers won 2-0.

Dunn’s goal came off of an assist from senior midfielder Chrissy Tchoula. The preseason Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year has now notched an assist in three straight games.

Neidell said the Lady Toppers need to improve on offense but they looked good this weekend.

“We still have a lot of work to do there, but I think we are starting to find ourselves on the attacking side of the ball,” he said.

WKU controlled the game’s tempo throughout, outshooting Louisiana-Lafayette 16-6 and limiting the opponent to just three shots on goal. Abolins and the backline tallied their fourth shutout of the season and 28th of Abolins’ career.

This marked Abolins 28th career shutout, as she tallied three saves on the afternoon. Abolins hasn’t allowed a goal in her last 288:02 in goal.

With the win WKU improved to 2-0 in Sun Belt Conference play to take sole possession of first place in league standings after a weekend of play.

“We take a lot of pride in our defending, and two shutouts are great,” Lange said.

The Lady Toppers will travel to San Marcos, Texas Sunday to take on Sun Belt foe Texas State for the first time in program history.