Neidell overhauls WKU’s starting lineup after Ball State loss

Sophomore midfielder Courtney Rymer dribbles upfield last Friday in the Lady Toppers’ 1-0 loss to Ball State. Rymer, along with six others who started against the Cardinals, was replaced for WKU’s game against Eastern Kentucky the following Sunday in lineup changes made by Head Coach Jason Neidell.

M. Blake Harrison

Holding a steadfast belief that his team has talent from top to bottom, Head Coach Jason Neidell followed through with what he said after Friday’s Ball State game by overhauling the Lady Toppers’ starting lineup.

Nine of the 11 starters from the Ball State game were replaced to start Sunday’s contest against Eastern Kentucky. Sophomore midfielder Sydney Sisler and junior forward Kaylyn Pratt were the only two starters to carry over from Ball State to EKU.

Freshman defender Katrina Ott — normally a starter — said Neidell’s threat didn’t register with her until game-time on Sunday.

“He told us after the (Ball State) game that there would be changes to the lineup, and I don’t think that people thought it would be as drastic as it was,” Ott said.

Neidell said it was evident that some of the players were surprised by the moves.

“Looking at their faces when I told them the starting lineup about three hours before the game, I could tell some of them were pretty surprised,” he said.

Neidell’s attitude following the Ball State game was to be taken in stride, sophomore midfielder Ali Stahlke said.

“After a loss like that, you kind of expect coaches to be upset, and I personally thought that he was frustrated and saying that to get us worried,” Stahlke said. “Obviously, he went through with it, and I think it definitely reverberated throughout the team.”

Stahlke, normally one of the Lady Toppers’ three starting midfielders, said spending some time on the bench reminded her how important it is to be a supportive teammate even if she’s not playing.

Stahlke said she believes that everybody on the team now has an equal opportunity to prove themselves. 

Neidell, meanwhile, was quick to point out that nothing’s changed on his end.

“But we want the kids to know that we’re evaluating them and watching them,” he said.

No matter what the intent of the lineup decisions were, redshirt sophomore Laura Ray said it hit home.

She said she knows anybody’s spot can be taken at any time.

“I don’t know if it was a wake-up call or reality check, but I think it was a message to the whole team,” Ray said.

Neidell said he thinks most of the players know why the lineup changes were made. The Lady Toppers head into Friday’s game against Southeast Missouri State with a 1-3-2 record.

Because there is so much talent on the team, Neidell said the lineup shuffle was a risk worth taking.

“I think part of it was trying to make a statement to the kids … part of it was some of the other kids waiting in the wings deserved a chance,” Neidell said. “I think it made sense to give them the opportunity.”