WOMEN’s SOCCER: Neidell’s squad ready for quality win

Beth Wilberding

When the women soccer players lace up their cleats before Friday night’s home game against High Point, it will be with the experience of playing a top three team.

After last Saturday’s loss at Notre Dame, the team is looking to use what it learned playing against such a competitive team.

“We’ve learned a higher level of competition,” junior midfielder Leslie Anderson said.

And with five games behind them, the Lady Toppers are excited to hit the field this week, looking to improve their 2-3 record.

“The most important thing is we get out at practice everyday and work hard,” coach Jason Neidell said. “We work hard to get ourselves better.”

The Panthers are 1-3, but Neidell said High Point’s record wouldn’t affect the intensity of Western’s play.

“Just because a team is 1-3, it doesn’t mean they’re not a good team,” Neidell said. “(They are) a team that will be very competitive.”

Sunday afternoon the team will face Vanderbilt. The Commodores are 2-2-1 this season, including a double-overtime loss to San Diego.

Despite beating Lipscomb and Murray State, Western still lacks a quality win. Neidell said a win at Vanderbilt would be just that.

“We’ve shown in three years that we can be competitive with a quality program,” Neidell said. “Now it’s time for us to get a win against a quality opponent. Sunday’s a good chance to do that.”

Anderson said the team will need to push itself in practices to be prepared to win this weekend’s games.

“Vandy’s an SEC team,” she said. “And they’ll be as tough as Kentucky, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State.”

Neidell said High Point runs a similar system to Notre Dame. The Irish started a lineup of three forwards and three midfielders. Notre Dame had three goals and five assists from those players, but Neidell was encouraged by his players’ performance.

Before Friday’s game, Western will have had three practices to improve defending against that system.

“There’s always room for improvement anywhere on the field,” sophomore defender Jenny Dalby said. “(We’ll work) a lot on transition and on speed of play.”

Neidell added that the team knows what it needs to work on to improve its season.

The team believes its mental approach will help it win games.

“Our mentality is a lot stronger,” Anderson said. “We know now that we have to have focus and concentrate mentally for 90 minutes to play our best and win games.”

That mentality will be crucial when Western hosts the Sun Belt Conference tournament in November.

Neidell said that if the team wins the conference, they could face Notre Dame, or a team of its caliber, in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“As long as we come out and play them to our best ability, there’s no doubt in my mind that we can (win),” Dalby said.

Reach Beth Wilberding at [email protected]