Soccer team leads Sun Belt after win over Texas State

Jonah Phillips

The Lady Toppers plunged into their first conference away game Sunday when they traveled just under 1,000 miles to play Texas State (5-6-2).  In one of the closest games the Lady Toppers have played this season, senior forward Andrea Curry’s late overtime goal provided some separation as WKU (5-3-2) got the win.

The Lady Toppers — who have now taken five games into overtime this season — maintained control of the game in the first half, firing four shots from the attacking third and two saves by senior goalkeeper Nora Abolins.

“We played really well in the first half,” coach Jason Neidell said. “We possessed the ball well and we made them play a lot of defense, but we didn’t do much with our possession.  We didn’t create much, and the team was frustrated with that.”

The second half was more of a even battle between the squads, and emotion began to flair toward the end of regulation, with two cards being dealt in the last 10 minutes of play.

“In the second half, we just got outplayed,” Neidell said. “It obviously turned the tables when they got a player ejected with five minutes left in regulation.  (Texas State) just began to pack it in and play for the tie.”

Freshman forward Kelly Phipps earned a yellow card in the 84th minute, but just a minute later, Texas State’s Sydney Curry threw an elbow into freshman midfielder Hayley Baldridge and was ejected.

As regulation continued, nothing could separate the two teams, and overtime began with Texas State playing a player down.

Aided by their lack of a Friday matchup, and an extra body on the field, the Lady Toppers proved to be all attack in overtime, firing four shots to Texas State’s zero.  

It looked as if WKU was going to notch its fifth tie of the season, but in the last dying minutes of overtime, freshman defender Olivia Fitzgerald served a ball to the front of the box where Curry was able to control a deflection by Texas State goalkeeper Natalie Gardini and bury the ball into the open net.

This was Curry’s second career game-winner.

The attack would prove to be enough for the Lady Toppers to solidify the win, allowing them to leave San Marcos in sole position of first place in the Sun Belt Conference and on a four-game winning streak.

Abolins and the defenders were strong defensively between the posts.  Of the Lady Bobcats’ 13 shots, Abolins saved seven as she post her third consecutive shutout, all in conference play. Abolins has not allowed a goal in over 395 minutes dating back to Sept. 20.

Through all of this, Neidell said he still expects far more from his squad.

“We played a team that was first place in the conference, so to not play your best soccer, and to get the win away from home I think says a lot about your team, but we are going to have to get back to work and perform better in practices,” he said.

WKU returns to action Friday as the team hosts Troy at the WKU Soccer Complex at 1 p.m. before traveling to South Alabama to take on the Lady Jaguars on Sunday.