Loud and clear: WKU enters ‘new year’ with resolve

Mallory Outerbridge, left, and Sydney Sisler, top, hug Christen Sims after Sims netted the go-ahead goal against North Texas. The Lady Toppers won by a 1-0 score.

M. Blake Harrison

Instead of limping into Sun Belt Conference play on the heels of a disappointing non-conference showing, WKU’s soccer team instead decided to clear its collective mind and start from scratch.

The solution included the Lady Toppers’ September version of a New Year’s party — resolutions and all.

Citing game results, highs and lows and a young group of players, both Assistant Coach Chris Tinius and Head Coach Jason Neidell said they felt the annual message that comes with the start of conference play needed to be delivered differently this year.

Instead of preaching consistency and focus at a routine team meeting, Tinius suggested the message be brought in style.

“It’s just like your parents,” Tinius said. “You can hear the same stuff from them for 15 years, and at some point you just tune it out. It’s a message that’s pretty obvious and sometimes boring to hear, but it was a little more lively way to get it across and lift our spirits a little bit.”

The surprise party — complete with resolutions and a countdown — was a hit.

Junior midfielder Kelsey Meyer said the gesture let her know the coaches still believe in her and her teammates after the Lady Toppers started with a 2-3-2 record.

“I think it kind of just helped get our spirits back up after kind of a shaky start in non-conference play,” Meyer said.

The Lady Toppers set three resolutions during the party: play with a blue-collar attitude consistently, pay attention to detail and be good teammates.

Individually, each player came up with a resolution of her own and shared it with two to four teammates for accountability purposes.

Neidell alluded to strong non-conference showings over the past several years as a reason why he thought it was important to remind the girls that they’ve got a clean slate to work with.

What the team learns in those games is all that counts, he said.

Moving forward, Neidell said it was important for WKU to at least split the first weekend of Sun Belt competition, which the Lady Toppers did.

“We put ourselves in a pretty decent position and re-established ourselves, certainly, as one of the elite teams in the league,” he said Sunday after a 2-0 loss to Denver. WKU began the weekend with a 1-0 win over North Texas.

Junior goalkeeper Libby Stout said Sunday that even after a shutout loss, the Lady Tops had not lost sight of their “New Year’s” resolutions.

“We didn’t get the win today, but we’re still happy with where we’re at,” Stout said. “I think we’re ready to be more consistent with our play and put in a full 90 minutes.”