WKU soccer shut out at home by Denver

Denver freshman forward Kristen Hamilton maneuvers around WKU senior defender Jamie Silverberg during the first half of Sunday’s 2-0 Lady Topper loss to the Pioneers. Denver saved six shots to WKU’s two.

M. Blake Harrison

A lack of focus and intensity were two things WKU Head Coach Jason Neidell said his team lacked in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to Denver.

The Lady Toppers (3-4-2, 1-1 Sun Belt Conference) had two more of both total shots and shots on goal than the Pioneers (8-2-0, 2-0 Sun Belt), but the 2-0 hole WKU dug with about 13 minutes to play was too much.

“We didn’t come out with enough energy in the first half,” Neidell said. “And that was a really big difference in the game.”

Neidell said Denver is probably the best possession team WKU will face all season, and the Lady Toppers were “really disorganized” in the middle of the field.

“Our ability to close down spaces in the midfield was going to be the difference in the game today,” he said.

Toward the end of the first half, junior goalkeeper Libby Stout became animated while urging her teammates to focus.

Stout said she didn’t think WKU played poorly, but she said the Lady Toppers let their guard down when Denver sophomore forward Kaitlin Bast scored less than a minute before halftime.

“I was sensing that our intensity was going down a little bit, and I wanted to make sure we still had our heads in the game,” Stout said.

The Lady Toppers’ leading scorer, redshirt junior Mallory Outerbridge, was roughed up twice during the game — once during a hit to the head in the first half, and again with a shot in the calf toward the end of the game.

Following the first blow, Outerbridge sat out for 17 minutes.

Neidell said the substitution was made partly to get fresh legs into the game and partly because Outerbridge’s energy wasn’t up to par. Her energy in the second half was much better, he said.

“If she came out with that kind of energy and that kind of spark in the first half, it would’ve been a different game,” he said. “She’s a great player, but she needs to be a great player all the time — not just when she wants to be.

“There’s no way I was going to leave a player in that wasn’t playing with spark and enthusiasm.”

Outerbridge had three of WKU’s six shots on goal while she was in the game.

“Today was one of those days where there was just a forcefield around the net,” Outerbridge said. “You have those days, and some days all three of those shots go in.

“I’m sure the game would’ve gone a lot different had one gone in, especially in the first half.”