WOMEN’S SOCCER: Lady Tops open season on road

Jason Stamm

They’ve virtually grown up together. And this weekend the young women’s soccer programs at Western and Murray State universities will kick off another season in their four-year-old rivalry.

The Lady Racers, who played their first season in 2000, will open the season against Western, whose program began in 2001, at 7 p.m. Friday at Murray.

The teams have played each of the last three seasons.

“They’ve been a good rival for us,” Western coach Jason Neidell said. “Murray is a tough place to play, but we’re really looking forward to it.”

After exhibition bouts with Tennessee Tech and Indiana University, Western is ready to get its season under way.

“Our pre-season went really well,” senior midfielder Jackie Krieger said. “We’re clicking right now and we’ve figured out how everyone (on our team) plays.”

Neidell agreed that Western made positive strides in its pre-season matches.

“We’ve never dominated Tennessee Tech the way we did and we found out a lot about ourselves playing a Big Ten powerhouse like IU,” Neidell said. “We have an idea now how our veterans fit in, but there’s still some question as to where the newcomers will come in.”

The Lady Toppers got the best of the Lady Racers last season as Western won 4-1 to grab a 2-1 lead in the overall series.

The Lady Racers are coming off a 6-10-3 season that left them tied for sixth in the Ohio Valley Conference. This season Murray State coach Mike Minielli boasts a young gun squad that welcomes 13 freshmen after the departure of 12 seniors.

“This is a good match for us because Western is as good or better than most teams in the OVC,” Minielli said. “We’re not really sure what to expect, but we’ll feel our way through and make some adjustments at half time.”

Western will take on the Lady Eagles of Morehead State at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Lady Toppers’ first home match of the season. The girls in red are undefeated in their series with Morehead prevailing 4-0 last season to go to 3-0 overall against the Lady Eagles.

“There’s definitely some in-state rivalry with MSU,” senior defender Melissa Robinson said. “It’s definitely a special game for us because that was our very first game.”

First year Morehead coach Greg Sheen said that Western will be a good test for his young club.

“We’re up against a very formidable opponent in Western,” Sheen said. “We’re inexperienced and we have a lot of work to do, but we have every intention of winning.”

Morehead is in somewhat of a rebuilding mode this season after a dismal 2-13-1 season that placed it last in the OVC. The youthful Lady Eagles bring 11 freshmen into the mix with only two seniors, but that doesn’t necessarily dampen the rivalry.

“MSU is starting over this year with a new coach,” Neidell said. “But we look for them to be more improved and more organized.”

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