Lady Toppers’ win streak snapped in Arkansas

Jonah Phillips

The Lady Topper soccer team dropped its first game since Sept. 13 over the weekend as WKU went 1-1 in a pair of road games.

WKU (8-4-4, 6-1-0 Sun Belt Conference) fell at Arkansas State 3-0 Friday before finding its footing in a 1-0 win over Arkansas-Little Rock Sunday.

Coach Jason Neidell said with two regular-season games left, the Lady Toppers have a lot to improve on.

“We need to work on our collective team defending, possession through the midfield, and being more dangerous on the attack,” coach Jason Neidell said, “that’s going to be our focus in practice moving forward to this weekend.”

Friday’s loss to ASU (9-6-2, 4-3-0) broke the Lady Toppers’ six-game winning streak. The team had gone 6-0-2 in eight games since its last loss.

The Lady Red Wolves only fired four shots on the match, but three of them found the back of WKU’s goal, dishing WKU its first SBC loss.

“We got outworked and outcompeted,” Neidell said. “With that being said (Arkansas State) was very opportunistic — they scored three goals on four shots.”

ASU struck eight minutes into the first half on an own goal by the Lady Toppers, who misplayed a Red Wolves corner kick and accidentally knocked the ball into the goal.

Senior goalkeeper Nora Abolins had slipped in the muddy conditions minutes earlier trying to defend a corner kick. In an attempt to defend the corner kick in a safer manner, Abolins tried to punch the ball out of the box, but a miscue led the ball in the back of the net.

With this goal, Abolins’ goalless streak was snapped at 582:30 — the second-longest goalless streak in program history. Before Friday’s 3-0 loss, WKU had shutout its previous five opponents and not allowed a goal since Sept. 22.

The game remained in reach for WKU until late in the second half. ASU forward Loren Mitchell delivered two final blows late in the second half, netting both goals in a three-minute span to put the game out of reach send WKU packing with its first regular-season Sun Belt loss since Sept. 30, 2012.

Sunday’s matchup yielded a more favorable result for the Lady Toppers.

Freshman forward Iris Dunn netted her third game-winning goal of the season in the 79th minute at UALR (4-12-0, 1-6-0) to push the Lady Toppers past a Lady Trojan squad perched dead last in the conference.

Senior goalkeeper Nora Abolins was stout in between the posts for WKU, with four saves on the match.  Abolins and the back line recorded their eighth shutout of the season, included six against Sun Belt teams.

The Lady Toppers have two regular season games left, including their home finale Friday against Georgia State.

Neidell said he hopes to see his team improve before the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

“We need to play better, we haven’t been playing well the past three or so weeks.” Neidell said. “To our credit, we are still scraping out wins, but we just need to play better.  We have several things we need to work on to get a better product out on the field.”