Road trip provides learning experience for WKU

M. Blake Harrison

WKU soccer’s 3-1 performance on its recent four-game road trip provided a Sun Belt Conference standings boost.

Beyond that, though, it was a test for a group of underclassmen new to rivalries and life on the road.

The Lady Toppers (6-5-2, 4-2 Sun Belt) were able to avenge last year’s season-ending loss to Arkansas State with a 2-0 win on Oct. 3.

Senior defender Jamie Silverberg said the upperclassmen told the newcomers how much a win against ASU would mean to the elder statesmen of the team.

She said it got the younger players “fired up,” and it translated into a victory.

But playing tough teams wasn’t the only thing WKU had to worry about.

“I think traveling is definitely a strenuous task,” Silverberg said. “It’s something that’s difficult, especially for a freshman.”

The stretch was the first time the Lady Toppers played both legs of a weekend set on the road this season.

Assistant Coach Chris Tinius said the girls made strides toward playing a complete 90 minutes.

 “If you take a business-like approach to it, it doesn’t really matter where you’re playing,” Tinius said. “It’s stuff we wanted to see whether we were home or away.

“To be able to see some of that stuff start to come together on the road was a real bonus.”

Playing games was just half the battle for the Lady Toppers while they were away.

Tinius said the team didn’t need much encouragement to get class work done, and it was nice that the long road trip fell on WKU’s fall break.

“It was a new experience for some of our younger kids who are continuing to learn how to put two games together, let alone being away from home the whole time,” he said.

Midfielder Chrissy Tchoula, one of 10 true freshmen on the team, said she enjoyed time away with her teammates.

Winning helps build that chemistry, she said.

 “With the long road trips, we just have to stay focused, and I think that’s what we did,” Tchoula said. “I’d say there’s more pressure to win on the road, especially with the types of teams we were playing against.”

Of the five remaining regular-season opponents, only Middle Tennessee’s 4-2 Sun Belt record matches up to WKU.

Friday’s foe, Louisiana-Monroe (2-12-1, 0-6) has the Sun Belt’s worst record.

WKU must continue moving in the right direction and take care of the teams it should beat, Tinius said.

That can be done by approaching each game as a separate entity, he said.

“They’re below us right now, but if we don’t beat them, they’ll be above us,” he said. “I think any team and any coach would tell you right now that you don’t have your finished product. And to be honest, you don’t want your finished product for another couple weeks.”