Lady Toppers out to avenge last year’s FIU loss

Western Kentucky’s Christen Sims (right) kicks the ball away from Arkansas-Little Rock’s Olivia Carrasco during the game Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012 at the WKU Soccer Complex. Western Kentucky defeated Arkansas-Little Rock 5-0.

Natalie Hayden

The Lady Toppers are looking for more than a win — they’re looking for revenge.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, the Lady Toppers will be on the road taking on Florida International, the team they lost to in penalty kicks in the 2011 Sun Belt Tournament Championship Game.

“It was pretty devastating for us,” junior Andrea Curry said. “We played our all throughout the game and to lose the championship by penalty kicks is not the way you want it to happen. It’s even worse than them beating us regularly.

“It still hurts my stomach even thinking about it.”

The two teams not only tied during play during the final game, but also when they met during the regular season.

“We’re two pretty evenly matched teams,” associate head coach Chris Tinius said. “If you went down a checklist you might give one an edge in one area or another, but it would pretty much balance out.”

However, the Lady Toppers have one advantage over the Panthers, Curry said.

“I think in general we’re better at working as a team,” she said. “We all work for the team and to better the team, which is a great quality to have.”

The team is excited to have the chance to play the Panthers again, Curry said.

“I’m expecting a really good FIU team, compared to the team we saw last year,” she said. “I want to go in and let them know we’re a better team this year. Tying them twice is not an option.”

omething the girls are also considering is that FIU is leaving the Sun Belt for Conference USA next year.

Sunday will be the last regular season game the Lady Toppers play against the Panthers, and if they don’t meet in tournament play, it will be their last game for the foreseeable future.

“You always hear the saying, ‘play like it’s your last game,’ but this very well may be the last time we play them,” junior Torrie Lange said. “We owe it to them to give it everything we’ve got. We owe it to ourselves too.”

Curry said the team’s focused on Sunday’s game.

“I think there is a little more focus on this game,” she said. “For the returning players, I think it’s going to be more of a revenge-type scenario.”

While the girls are excited to avenge their loss last season, Tinius said their game at 7 p.m. Friday against Florida Atlantic can’t be overlooked.

“I hope the girls have a lot of confidence after this past weekend,” he said. “It’s something we’re going to need not just Sunday against FIU, but Friday against FAU as well. If we aren’t focused and playing well Friday, it won’t carry over to our next game.”

The Lady Toppers’ record so far this season is 7-3, and they are 2-0 in conference play. They’re also riding a three-game shutout streak.

With last season still in mind, and the possibility of Sunday being their last meeting with the Panthers, the Lady Toppers are coming in strong and determined, Lange said.

“I personally want to beat them, especially because they won’t be in our conference next year,” she said. “We want to send them away with a loss from Western Kentucky.”