Lady Tops advance to semifinals of Sun Belt

Beth Wilberding

When the women’s soccer team stepped out of their mud-stained cleats last night, it was with one Sun Belt Conference Tournament win under their belts. Under less than desirable conditions, the Lady Toppers defeated South Alabama 3-2.

And the win sends Western into the conference semifinals, where they will face Denver today at 4 p.m.

The Lady Toppers played only seven minutes before junior forward Crystal Chapon snuck the ball past Jaguar junior goalie Amber Angermeier.

Just seven minutes later, Western was able to score again when junior midfielder Jocelyn Roach put the ball through the left side of the net.

However, the Jaguars wouldn’t go away easily. They got on the board when freshman forward Jennifer Beckwith was able to get the ball past Western junior goalie Amy Uhlman. Western was able to hold South Alabama, and they went into halftime with a 2-1 advantage.

The Lady Toppers came out strong in the second half, and freshman forward Jenna Silverberg drew Angermeier out of the box and put the ball through the goal posts.

Western was able to dominate the Jaguars until the 86th minute, when junior midfielder Heather Adamus snuck the ball by senior Melissa Bailey, who came into the game for Uhlman. However, that would be the last goal South Alabama would be able to score, and the Lady Toppers held onto the win.

“I thought we played well, despite the conditions,” coach Jason Neidell said. The soccer complex’s field was practically a mud pit after the day’s rain and the four games that had been played on it.

Neidell said the game’s fan support pumped up the team.

“Our crowd was fantastic tonight,” he said. “The crowd is like the 12th man.”

Yesterday’s game was the second time Western faced South Alabama this week. The Lady Tops beat the Jaguars 2-1 Sunday.

“I always think it’s harder to beat a team twice,” junior midfielder Andrea Doogs said. “You know how they play, but they know how you play … you have to play your heart out.”

Neidell said South Alabama came out with a different formation from Sunday, but his team had been prepared for that.

“Being a conference team, we know what we’re going to get,” Neidell said.

What added to the team’s excitement of winning was the fact that two of its members were named to the All-Conference team. Doogs was named to the first team, and sophomore defender Jenny Dalby was named to the second team.

“It was surprising,” Dalby said. “I didn’t expect it at all. And to have Doogs make first team is just awesome.”

Doogs said her award was a team effort.

“I’m really honored,” she said. “I can’t do it without my teammates. It’s a team award.”

But the team is going to put the celebration from last night aside to prepare for today’s semifinal game against Denver. The Lady Toppers have never beaten Denver, and they think this afternoon will be the perfect time to break their streak.

“We’re here at our house,” Doogs said. “(We need to) take it to them.”

Neidell said he told the players that playing Denver was an opportunity for them, not at obstacle.

“We’re now two games from the NCAA tournament,” he said. “We’re really excited.”

Other Sun Belt Conference Tournament Results

Denver 5, Louisiana-Lafayette 0

Middle Tennessee 3, Arkansas-Little Rock 0

North Texas 10, Arkansas State 1