Lady Toppers prepare by minding their own business

M. Blake Harrison

In many sports, the ability to beat opponents hinges on how a team prepares specifically for them.

But that’s not the case for the WKU soccer team, which chooses to focus more on what it can control.

Head Coach Jason Neidell said the difference between soccer and other sports, such as football, comes down to individual match-ups or plays.

“Soccer’s a free-flowing game, so you’re not preparing for a particular play or set,” Neidell said.

Other than a brief game-day summary of the team WKU is about to play, players don’t study the opposition much.

In lieu of film sessions focused on opponents, the Lady Toppers spend that time watching footage of their own performances and discussing how they can get better. 

Junior forward Mallory Outerbridge, who has played semi-professional soccer and for the Canadian national team, said she has seen it all when it comes to preparation.

She said the Canadian national team spent more than an hour a day watching game film of their next foe — which is more than it would spend watching itself — during her last stint with the team.

Outerbridge said she appreciates each philosophy, and it wasn’t hard for her to adjust to WKU’s method when she arrived on the Hill.

She said she likes Neidell’s coaching techniques because his methods appeal to different learning styles.

“It could go both ways depending on how I feel that day,” Outerbridge said. “Sometimes film is boring, so it’s a little tedious.

While the players are spared for the most part, Neidell and his staff do spend a considerable amount of time scouting upcoming teams.

He said he lets players know specific information that will help them, but he doesn’t divulge more than 20 percent of the information he knows.

“Part of it is definitely that we don’t want to overload them with information,” he said. “We want to give them information that’s pertinent to their position and their role on the field.

“The other part of it is we want to dictate the game, and we want the people to adjust to the things that we’re doing.”

Sophomore forward Laura Ray said she likes how the Lady Toppers prepare for game situations, adding that she thinks it helps “get our minds right.”

Ray played one season at the University of Florida before coming to WKU.

Two practices a week at Florida would include scrimmages against a scout team of the next opponent, she said.

Ray said she doesn’t see a huge difference between the two styles.

“We know who we’re playing. We’re always ready for that. But we need to work on ourselves.”