Outerbridge delivers as WKU hosts tournament

JOSH MAUSER/HERALD Junior forward Mallory Outerbridge celebrates her 16th-minute goal on Wednesday against North Texas during the first round of the Sun Belt tournament. Outerbridge went on to score another goal in the 29th minute, and WKU won 3-0 to advance to the second round.

M. Blake Harrison

Mallory Outerbridge is used to stealing the show.

The redshirt junior forward led the Lady Toppers in a number of statistical areas during the regular season, including goals (7), assists (4), shots (44) and shots on goal (29).

Because of the numbers she put up throughout the season, Outerbridge said she knew she would be defended heavily during the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

That didn’t stop Outerbridge from making her mark in the opening round of the tournament Wednesday night. She tallied two goals in the first 30 minutes of action in leading WKU to a 3-0 win over North Texas.

Junior goalkeeper Libby Stout was the only goalie to hold an opponent scoreless during the first round of the eight-team tournament.

Stout said she knows firsthand that Outerbridge is a “tricky” and “explosive” player by practicing against her.

“She’s very quick and she kind of fakes her shot a lot,” Stout said. “As a keeper, it’s hard to play against her because she is so quick.”

Head Coach Jason Neidell said he intentionally moved Outerbridge to different spots on the field throughout Wednesday’s game to create matchup problems for the Mean Green.

Neidell said he tried to keep Outerbridge in the middle of the field as much as possible.

“It actually really helped us because whenever we moved her, they moved somebody with her,” Neidell said. “I thought it was really helpful for us tactically to make a couple adjustments.”

 Outerbridge was marked by one defender directly but had another close by in case she broke loose.

Neidell said that’s not usually enough to shut down the three-time all-Sun Belt Conference team member.

“She’s sneaky,” he said. “She’s still able to get herself free.” 

Neidell said Outerbridge’s first goal was instrumental in setting the tone for the rest of the match.

He said it’s important for his young team to score early, adding that “scoring first makes a world of difference.”

Outerbridge said she could tell that her first score was uplifting for the Lady Toppers.

“It just gave everybody the push — the drive,” she said. “It’s just one of those things … it lights everybody up.”

Outerbridge had some extra incentive to do well Wednesday, as her father was in the stands watching.

A native of Regina, Saskatchewan, Outerbridge said her father had been to Bowling Green one other time to watch her play.

“My dad is here from Canada, so it was awesome for him to see two goals in one game,” she said.

Hosting the conference tournament allowed WKU to regain its composure after losing its final three regular-season games, two of them being on the road.

WKU hadn’t scored three goals in a Sun Belt tournament game since 2007.

The Lady Toppers lost a chance for the No. 2 seed after the losing streak and were matched up against the second-seeded Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in Thursday evening’s semi-final contest.