If the Western women’s soccer team is going to make a postseason splash, this might be the year to do it.
That’s because this is the fourth year of the program and 13 players from the original team are either juniors or seniors. Western returns 10 of its 11 starters from last season following the graduation of goalkeeper Melissa Bailey.
Among those returning are sophomore forward Jenna Silverberg, who led Western in goals (14), points (31) and shots (56), and senior defender Betsy Duncan who finished second on the team with five goals and 15 points.
“To have our starters back and really, 13 players from our original team give us good maturity and experience,” head coach Jason Neidell said. “Hopefully that will translate to a championship.”
The original players said they have a bond from playing together for three seasons.
“Our seniors give us a tremendous amount of chemistry,” Duncan said. “We get along extremely well together.”
Assistant coach Matt Hawkey said he’s never seen anything like it.
“The way the girls get along is unbelievable,” Hawkey said. “There’s so many unique personalities that they really pride themselves on their chemistry.”
Eight freshmen will hope to enhance that chemistry while giving Neidell more lineup options.
“We have a lot of speed coming in,” senior Crystal Chapon said.
Western will need to utilize its speed among its other areas as it faces perhaps its toughest schedule in the brief existence of the program.
The team finished the exhibition portion of its schedule Sunday with a 2-0 loss to Indiana. Last Tuesday Western beat Tennessee Tech 2-0.
The regular season kicks off Friday when the Lady Toppers travel to Murray to take on the rival Racers before hosting Morehead State Sunday.
Also on tap for Western is No. 22 California Polytechnic State University along with Kentucky and Drake, who are receiving votes in the soccerbuzz.com magazine poll.
When Western plays Cal Poly, it’ll be the program’s first trip to California. The Lady Tops will also play Cal-State Northridge.
“I think it shows us a lot of respect for us to be on the bigger teams’ schedules,” Silverberg said. “It’s definitely a reward for us to play the Cal teams.”
Reach Jason Stamm at [email protected]