Stout’s leadership stabilizes Lady Toppers

M. Blake Harrison

Days before the beginning of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, the WKU soccer team has a leader to guide the group.

Head Coach Jason Neidell said his team will rely on junior goalkeeper Libby Stout, who he equated to the Lady Toppers’ version of a quarterback.

Stout is one of the team’s more vocal leaders, never hesitating to point out a flaw in WKU’s schemes both on offense and defense.

Neidell said Stout has natural, “God-given” leadership qualities that make her an effective head of the WKU soccer family.

“She’s been such a good presence for us and been such a good leadership presence that she just needs to keep doing what she’s been doing,” Neidell said.   

Because the Lady Toppers lost matches last week to Troy and South Alabama, they’ll earn a low seed and face a tougher road during the conference tournament, which begins Wednesday at the WKU Soccer Complex.

In adverse situations such as these, Neidell said Stout has taken the reins with a strong will in terms of leadership.

Stout, a team co-captain alongside senior defender Chelsea Grover, has two full seasons worth of experience to her credit.

She was forced into the starting role as a freshman and has become less hesitant to voice her thoughts to her teammates.

“I would say it’s part of my personality, but it’s definitely something I didn’t come into college with,” Stout said. “As a freshman, I didn’t want people to think I was being overbearing at all.”

Stout said there are times when she has to correct or make suggestions to teammates — often her friends — during games.

“That’s something I’ve been trying to balance all year, is how exactly to get my point across to my really good friends without being overbearing to them,” she said. “It is definitely a balance, and I’m working to try to find it.”

Neidell said the peer-leading-peer relationship is one of the toughest challenges in college athletics.

“There’s always going to be times when the right thing to do and the leadership thing to do maybe isn’t the popular thing to do,” he said.

Stout knows the difference and steps up when needed, Neidell said.   

Junior midfielder Kelsey Meyer, who roomed with Stout their freshman year, said Stout’s input gives the team confidence, and the goalie garners respect because of her actions both on and off the field.    

Stout’s actions have made an impression on her understudy as well.

Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Katlyn Barnes said watching Stout during games has taught her what to say without saying too much.

“I get the point across without needing too many words to say it,” Barnes said.

 Stout said being a vocal leader is something she put on her own shoulders.

“It’s a crucial time of year, and I really do need to keep on doing what I’m doing, and also step it up so we’re focused going into the tournament,” she said.