Smith’s hat trick leads WKU in win over Louisiana-Monroe

M. Blake Harrison

Playing teams at the bottom of the Sun Belt Conference standings is helpful for the WKU soccer team for several reasons.

Most importantly, it provides a chance for starters to rest when the team jumps ahead of the opposition.

Friday night, WKU (7-5-2, 5-2 Sun Belt) was ahead of Louisiana-Monroe (2-13-1, 0-7) by two scores at halftime before finishing the Warhawks off by a 5-0 score.

Contributing one of the goals in the first half was freshman forward Chelsea Smith, whose first career goal came in the 40th minute. Smith saw more playing time on Friday than she’s seen all season, and she made the most of it.

Smith added two more goals in the final 15 minutes of the match.

The hat trick is the first in program history since 2007, and it elevated her to No. 2 on the goals-scored list for the season.

Smith said she recognized the importance of the victory.

“It definitely boosts our confidence a lot,” Smith said. “It’s a good feeling to have, especially with a win like this in conference.”  

Head Coach Jason Neidell said it’s important this late in the season to be able to give players a chance to catch their breath.

“We got to rest some players and we should be the fresher team on Sunday,” Neidell said.   

The Lady Toppers host Louisiana-Lafayette Sunday at 1 p.m.

Smith’s extra minutes were a byproduct of the lineup rotation.

“It was really fantastic to see Chelsea Smith get a hat trick tonight,” he said.

Neidell added that he would’ve liked to have seen the details be taken care of better, but he said it’s hard to keep focus when a team is up by several goals.

Sophomore forward Laura Ray scored WKU’s fifth goal in the 39th minute.

“Whenever you can get a win, that’s good,” Ray said. “But when you can shut them out like that, I think it’ll get our team going for the rest of the conference schedule.”