Soccer team looks to maintain Sun Belt lead

Jonah Phillips

The Lady Toppers will hit the halfway point of their conference season Friday during a home game against Troy before traveling to Mobile, Ala., to face South Alabama on Sunday.

WKU (5-3-4) currently sits in first place in the Sun Belt Conference, and is the only remaining team without a conference loss. The Lady Toppers have shut out all three of their Sun Belt opponents and have netted five goals in 290 minutes.

Senior goalkeeper Nora Abolins and the back line haven’t allowed a goal in 398 minutes.

Coach Jason Neidell said he is happy his team is in sole possession of first place, but the Lady Toppers can be even better. He cited Sunday’s 1-0 two-overtime win at Texas State as an example.

“We just need to perform better in practice,” Neidell said. “We didn’t have a very good week of practice (before Texas State) and it showed.  We played the way we practiced.”

The Lady Trojans are tied for third in the conference standings, holding a 2-1 record. They lost their conference opener at home against Texas State, but rebounded with a pair of wins against Arkansas State and Arkansas-Little Rock.

Troy (6-7-0) has allowed two goals to WKU’s zero and scored three goals to the Lady Toppers’ five since conference play began.

Freshman forward Iris Dunn has played an important role in WKU’s first three conference games. Dunn has accounted for 40 percent of the goals scored by WKU since the beginning of conference play, with the other goals belonging to senior defender Torrie Lange, freshman midfielder Caitlin Hesse and senior forward Andrea Curry.

Neidell said he believes his team has what it takes to compete at the highest level against all their conference opponents this year.

“We really just have to bring better intensity and better work ethic to our training sessions,” he said.

The back line will have to deal with a Lady Trojan charge led by midfielder Necee Jennings, who has fired eleven shots against conference foes this season.

“We just need to practice really hard this week, get after it, and make each other better,” senior defender Torrie Lange said. “We have a lot of players that can play defense on the back line and midfield as well — interchangeable parts — but it’s important that we don’t get too comfortable with one another and stay focused throughout the game. Communication and organization is key.”

First touch for Friday’s game is set for 1 p.m. at the WKU Soccer Complex. Sunday’s game at South Alabama (9-3-2) is set to start at 1 p.m. as well.