WOMEN’S SOCCER: Lady Tops to get early test

Beth Wilberding

If the women’s soccer team was ever looking for a test to see where it stood to begin its third season, this weekend should yield plenty of answers.

Over the next five days, Western will face three of the toughest teams the program has ever faced.

“The preseason has prepared us for the worst,” said freshman forward Jenna Silverberg. “We’ve been practicing three times a day, so we’re not too worried about it.”

First, the team is focused on its home opener against Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. Friday.

This is the first time the Lady Toppers have hosted Oklahoma State.

Last season, OSU beat the Lady Toppers 4-1 in Stillwater, Okla. This time, the team hopes to get its revenge at home.

“They’re going to be one of the best teams we play this season,” Silverberg said. “(The game) will set the standards for how well we do. From what I’ve heard, they’re an awesome team. It’ll be awesome to open against such a good team.”

Playing on their home turf only makes the players more anxious for the rematch.

“I think just being on our own field with our own fans gives us spirit and pride,” said junior defender Melissa Robinson.

Coach Jason Neidell said the team loves playing in front of a crowd and Western is a hard place for visiting teams to play.

Neidell, who is originally from Oklahoma, is excited about the game but said it will be tough.

“They are a good, organized, well coached team,” Neidell said. “They could be competitive with any Top 25 team in the country.”

Neidell said exhibition games were big factors in choosing a starting lineup.

“That was the intention of the preseason,” Neidell said. “To determine the starters.”

But he hasn’t officially announced his 11 starters yet.

Different lineup combinations could change all the way up to game-time Friday. The earliest he will inform his team will be at tonight’s practice.

But after two exhibition games and the Red-White scrimmage, Silverberg appears to be the newcomer with the best chance to start. Especially with Western using a three-forward lineup.

Though Friday night’s home opener is the team’s main focus right now, the Lady Toppers will face another difficult team Monday when they play at Kentucky. The Lady Wildcats made it to the NCAA tournament last season.

“We’re excited that the first two games are against phenomenal teams,” Neidell said.

The Lady Toppers finish up their first three games at home again next Tuesday, when they host Lipscomb.

Three games in a five-day period should be a good barometer to see where this growing program stands against some quality opponents.

“I think it will be good for the team,” Robinson said. “Our teams seems to rise whenever there’s a challenge.”

Reach Beth Wilberding at [email protected]