A step above: Outerbridge fills niche for Lady Toppers

Regina, Saskatchewan, junior forward Mallory Outerbridge stands in Houchens-Smith Stadium after practice on Monday afternoon. Outerbridge leads the Toppers with seven goals and four assists so far this season.

M. Blake Harrison

A quick glance at the stat sheet shows that redshirt junior forward Mallory Outerbridge is an integral part of the WKU soccer team.

It’s hard to look over the fact that she’s either assisted on or scored 52 percent of the team’s goals this season.

Outerbridge said that statistic shows that both she and her teammates alike are taking care of business.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that the team’s doing their job, and I’m doing mine,” Outerbridge said. “I’m a forward. That’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Outerbridge leads the team in goals with seven and assists with four, begging the question of where WKU would be without her.

The Lady Toppers got the chance to find out in 2008 when Outerbridge redshirted so she could train with the Canadian national team.

Her teammates made it to the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament and lost 2-0 to Denver.

Head Coach Jason Neidell said that result proves no single player makes or breaks a team.

“Obviously it wasn’t because she wasn’t here, but we’re capable of playing without any one of our players,” Neidell said.

Sophomore forward Laura Ray said the team would find a way around not having Outerbridge if she wasn’t able to play, but the junior’s creativity would be hard to replace.

“If it wasn’t Mal, I think it’d be someone else,” Ray said. “But with her, we’re just dangerous. There’s no way around it. I’m glad she’s doing so well.”

Ray said Outerbridge is important in the sense that if the team gets lazy, all it has to do is look at her.

“When you see someone working that hard … it inspires all of us to play harder,” she said. “She pushes us all to be better, for sure.”

Outerbridge said she hopes WKU doesn’t expect her to carry the load all the time.

“I think it can go both ways because if I have a bad game and people expect me to score, then it’s going to be tough on the team,” she said. “But at the same time, it gives other people opportunities to score.”

Outerbridge said she knows she’ll be heavily marked during the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, which will create a catch-22 for opponents.

She explained that if she’s not open, other players will step up. But if Outerbridge has space, she can put it through the net.

Neidell said that while soccer requires a team effort, Outerbridge’s impact is unmistakable.

“We wouldn’t be having the season we’re having if she wasn’t on the field producing the way she is,” Neidell said.

He said that in addition to what Outerbridge brings to the table athletically, she provides a dynamic personality off the field.

“We want to have players that want to put their stamp on the game,” he said. “It’s awesome that she stepped up and became a leader for the team in scoring goals and making things happen.”

Outerbridge said that her overall production is a result of being in the right place at the right time.

“I don’t think I’m the be-all and end-all of the team,” she said. “When the pieces are missing, people fill in.”