Defense proving to be an anchor for WKU soccer

Austin Lanter

WKU has thrived on defense this season. 

The Lady Toppers (5-3) have only allowed nine goals in their eight games and have managed to find the back of the net 15 times themselves. 

Now, heading into Sun Belt Conference play, “team defending” will be more important than ever. So far, Head Coach Jason Neidell likes what he’s seen.

“Our defense has been really good,” he said. “Our shape all the way around the field, not just our back four, but as a whole team has been really good.”

Senior goalkeeper Libby Stout is a big reason for the success of the defense. Stout, who earlier this season became WKU’s all-time winningest keeper, is the anchor of the defense, posting three shutouts in the five wins this season.

She, along with the rest of the defense, will have the task of stopping two of the most potent offenses in the Sun Belt this weekend when the Lady Toppers face North Texas on Friday and Denver on Sunday.
North Texas leads the conference in points, goals and goals per game, while Denver is tied with the Mean Green in assists and leads in assists per game.
Stout credits the success to the communication on the field and said it will take more of that to win this weekend.
“It’s been really good, but it can definitely be improved,” she said. “We have times when we’re really good and then times when we step back a bit. Just making it consistent would be the best thing we can do.”
While Neidell likes the overall look of the defense, he, like Stout, still sees improvements that can be made. His one critique was “one-on-one” defense.
“Our back four as a unit has done well, but quite honestly our one vs. one defending hasn’t been what it needs to be,” he said. “Our one vs. one defending all over the field needs to be better. We need to get stuck into people and really step up and defend people one vs. one.”
Neidell was also quick to praise the efforts of junior defender Ali Stahlke, saying she has a “thankless job” but has done really well and taken up the role of leading the defenders.
For Stahlke, just having more experience under her belt is what has made the difference for her and her teammates.
“I think it’s been easier for me this year to help other people because I have more experience than I did last year and so does everyone in the back,” Stahlke said. “We are more organized in the back, and when we see something different we can adapt to it and do what we need to do to stop them quicker than we would have last year.”
Neidell said the players seem more willing to understand the ins and outs of defense this year.
“The players are taking it upon themselves to understand more of the ‘why’ of our formation and how we do things other than ‘Oh this is just what we do,’” he said. “They want to understand the reason behind why we do things.”
But Neidell said for WKU to win this weekend, it will take a total team effort — not just a strong showing from the defense.
“We just need to put together complete games this weekend,” he said. “If we can put together complete games, we will give ourselves every opportunity to win.”