Lady Tops end season satisfied with results

Junior goalkeeper Libby Stout gets up after missing a penalty kick against MTSU on Thursday. After a 1-1 tie through regulation and two overtimes, WKU lost the game 4-3 in penalty kicks.

M. Blake Harrison

When the Lady Toppers huddled as a team for the final time Thursday after their Sun Belt Conference Tournament semi-final loss to Middle Tennessee, Head Coach Jason Neidell said he had both good news and bad news for his team.

The good news was that WKU played its best soccer as the season came to a close.

The bad news was, in Neidell’s words, “You can’t fool us anymore.” 

Neidell said he’s proud of his team that saw seven underclassmen start at least 10 games this season.

“But there’s a standard of excellence they need to strive for every time they step out on the field,” Neidell said. “We’re really excited about the future and our young team.”

This season, achieving that standard included striving for a “blue-collar attitude” — that is, out-hustling the competition.

Junior defender Kelsey Meyer said she embraced the team’s mantra head on.

“Hard work comes before the show,” Meyer said. “We want to be the team that’s going to come out and be known to knock you on the ground.”

Perhaps the best illustration of the Lady Toppers’ quest for showcasing a blue-collar attitude and their ultimate goal of a conference championship is the coming together of two former high school rivals.

Sophomore midfielder Sydney Sisler and freshman defender Katrina Ott spent their high school days in the midst of a rivalry that Sisler said is equivalent to WKU vs. MTSU.

After spending her first full season with Sisler as a teammate, Ott said she enjoyed it.

“She’s easy to play with,” Ott said. “She works hard, and she’s easy to find, so it wasn’t hard to gel with her at all.”

Meyer said the former foes quickly came together as part of the group, and Ott stepped up and played above her status as a freshman.

Sisler, a West Jessamine High School graduate, said she has seen Ott grow as a player since Ott’s time at Woodford County High School.

“Having her on my team and playing with her instead of against her just felt awesome,” Sisler said.

She said WKU played “phenomenal” in its two tournament games.

“We put together a full 90 minutes and actually a full 110, and we kicked butt and showed the detail Coach talked about,” Sisler said.

Redshirt junior forward Mallory Outerbridge’s selection to the all-tournament team was a product of that, Neidell said.

“In some regards, it’s a team award because we played our two best games of the season this week,” he said. “It was really great to see all the hard work that we put in come together.”

Outerbridge was the only player to score three goals in the tournament, a feat she accomplished in two games.

Neidell said Saturday that WKU was appreciative of the fan support on display Wednesday and Thursday nights, even in sub-50 degree weather.

The Lady Toppers played their final two games in front of the two largest crowds of the season.

“The atmosphere out here was so electric this week,” Neidell said. “The support that we got from particularly the student body was simply amazing.”