WKU offense clicking early this season

Natalie Hayden

The Lady Toppers have exceeded expectations so far this season through four games.

“We anticipated that it would be a little bit more difficult this early in the season for us to create opportunities to score,” coach Jason Neidell said, “but we’ve created plenty of chances to score, so it’s been a pleasant surprise.”

This year WKU has scored in each of its first four games, the first time that’s happened since 2008.

In all, WKU has scored nine goals, which is the most since 2008 and the fourth most in program history through four games.

That’s a big accomplishment considering the team lost two of the best players in program history, goalie Libby Stout and forward Mallory Outerbridge, to graduation last year, Neidell said.

Outerbridge was the program’s all time leading scorer, while Stout has gone on to sign a professional contract with F.F. Yzeure Allier Auvergne in France, making her the first WKU player to make the pros.

“When you lose key players like Libby Stout and Mallory Outerbridge, you tend to pick up the pieces by committee,” Neidell said. “So everyone’s a key player and I think that’s the philosophy we want to move forward with. It seems to be working so far.”

But Neidell said one player in particular has made a huge impact so far this year.

“Amanda Beuchel has scored four goals in four games, and that’s a player who has done that coming off of two torn ACLs,” he said. “When we tested out at the beginning of the season, she’s come back faster and stronger in every single test than she’s ever been before.”

Beuchel is a sixth year senior who missed the last two seasons due to her knee injuries.

She was named the Sun Belt Conference player of the week for the prior week.

“I’ve been here for six years, so I have a lot of experience,” Beuchel said. “I try to use my past experiences and other players’ past experiences to lead the team now as other girls have led me here.”

The freshmen have also been key contributors and brought energy to the team, Neidell said.

The freshmen and upperclassmen work together to produce a team-oriented concept, Neidell said.

 WKU has done well passing and spreading the ball out as opposed to relying on a great keeper or one major scorer.

The team’s biggest strength is the fact that anyone can step on the field at any moment and elevate the game, Beuchel said.

“We don’t have a weak moment when someone steps off,” she said. “We’re a really solid team.”

Last Friday night’s 3-0 win over Xavier in the Ball State Tournament is a perfect example of the team’s strength and the player’s versatility, Neidell said. Of the 11 starters, eight took shots.

Neidell said he’d like to see a similar effort at 1 p.m. Saturday when WKU takes on Bowling Green State in the Minnesota Tournament in St. Paul, Minn.

“I think we’re spreading the ball around a lot better and I think it’s a lot harder for teams to focus on who to stop because there are so many players who are stepping up to help us create that,” he said.