Freshman Chinn wins it for WKU in soccer season opener

Freshman forward Leslie Chinn celebrates her game-winning, overtime goal on the shoulders of her teammates Friday after the Lady Toppers’ 1-0 win over Western Carolina.

Austin Lanter

A veteran Lady Topper soccer team took the field for Friday night’s season opener against Western Carolina in the WKU Tournament.

Little did they know a rookie would lead them to victory.

Freshman forward Leslie Chinn scored the game-winning goal eight minutes into the sudden death overtime to lead the Lady Toppers to a 1-0 victory in their first game of the season.

“Oh my gosh. I almost peed my pants I was so nervous,” said Chinn, an Ohio County High School graduate. “I’m from a small town, so my whole town was here so it was really exciting and I’m just really happy.”

The Lady Toppers were knocking on the door the whole game but couldn’t convert. They had 14 shots total in the game, compared to Western Carolina’s five. Of those 14, two of them were free kicks from 20 yards or closer.

The first free kick occurred at the 19-minute mark. Senior forward Mallory Outerbridge looked as if she may have been tackled in the penalty box, but the free kick was given out of the box, preventing a penalty kick for the Lady Toppers.

The second free kick came with nine minutes left. Senior midfielder Kelsey Meyer tapped the ball to Outerbridge, who hit a shot toward the far post and had the goalie diving the opposite way. But a defender stopped it.

Although it took 97 minutes to get the ball in the back of the net, Head Coach Jason Neidell said he’s not concerned with his team’s inability to convert.

“It’s early in the season,” Neidell said. “The stuff in the final third (of the field) is the last piece of the puzzle that you put together. There were a lot of chances that we missed — a lot of combinations that didn’t quite work for us.”

The defense is a piece of the puzzle that Neidell was especially pleased with. The back four and senior goalkeeper Libby Stout were able to post a five-shot shutout effort.

“The back four were really good,” Neidell said. “The whole team can do a better job at stepping forward or falling back together. There were gaps in the middle part of field, but the back four were tremendous.”

For a veteran team, Neidell thought that the Lady Toppers panicked when they saw a 0-0 tie with 15 minutes left in the game.

He said the team wasn’t very composed and didn’t play well in the last 15 minutes.

Neidell took advantage of the five minutes between regulation to preach to his team something that he has been stressing all preseason.

“He stresses the little details,” Chinn said. “He focuses on the little details and us playing together as team. He’ll put little parts together to make this big picture. It’s like we’re his puzzle pieces, and he puts us all together.”

The Lady Toppers will be back in action on Sunday against Ball State at 2:30 p.m. as they finish out the WKU Tournament.