WOMEN’s SOCCER: Final road trip offers challenges

Beth Wilberding

When the Lady Toppers’ soccer team travels to Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama this weekend, it will be with one goal in mind – beating both teams in the same weekend for the first time ever.

In the team’s two-year history, Western has never been able to win the final games of the season.

Junior defender Melissa Robinson said the weekend’s games will be challenging because of the distance they have to travel.

“Road trips are always tough to play no matter how good the team is,” she said. “We’ll have a lot of adversity through flying and covering so much of the country in a few days.”

When the Lady Toppers face Lafayette Friday night, the team will have revenge on its mind. Last season, the Rajin’ Cajuns came to Western and pulled out a 2-1 win.

This season, the Rajin’ Cajuns (6-10-1, 2-4 Sun Belt Conference) have shut out five teams, and sophomore Tiffany Garber leads the team with five goals and an assist.

Lafayette coach David Poggi was unavailable for comment.

South Alabama (6-10-2, 3-3 SBC) could prove to be a tougher game. After suffering two consecutive shutouts against Denver and North Texas last weekend, the Jaguars have winning on their minds.

“They just want to get that bad taste out of their mouths,” South Alabama coach Mike Varga said of his players. “And put last weekend behind them.”

And with two ties and a loss in the last two weekends, Western (8-5-2, 3-1-2 SBC) is looking to do the same.

“We’ve gone through the toughest part of the schedule,” Western coach Jason Neidell said. “The conference is starting to separate itself.”

Neidell said four teams – Denver, North Texas, Middle Tennessee and Western – are emerging as the conference’s elite as the regular season winds down.

Players said despite disappointing outcomes in recent games, the team is mentally ready to finish the regular season.

“I think it serves as a motivating factor,” sophomore midfielder Becky Slogic said. “We’re ready to get out and play those teams in conference and get on the field.”

However, the Lady Toppers have added another injury to their growing list.

Robinson has an irritated iliotibial band in her left knee. Friction from overuse caused the condition, which includes rubbing of a band connected to a tendon over the outer bone, according to WebMD. The knee feels fine when walking, Robinson said, but when she plays, she feels a sharp, stabbing pain. Robinson was bothered by the injury last week and was forced to miss the MTSU game because of it.

“It flares up after I play for awhile,” Robinson said. “This past week, they finally made an executive decision that I would sit out for a week and not do anything active at all.”

Robinson said she hopes to play some this weekend and that she would play in the conference tournament “for sure.”

Reach Beth Wilberding at [email protected]