WOMEN’S SOCCER: Sun Belt split on the road a success

Jay Lively

With conference action in full swing, Western had its work cut out this weekend against North Texas and Denver.

North Texas hadn’t been beaten at home in 24 games.

Denver was ranked No. 16 in the nation.

First place in the Sun Belt was at stake.

Before heading to the Mile High City, Western hoped to leave the Long Horn State with its perfect conference record in tact.

Down 2-0 to North Texas at halftime, things didn’t look good.

The Lady Toppers needed to play their best half of the season to pull off a win.

They just might have.

It was a sweet homecoming for native Texan Kim Warren, who helped lead Western to an electrifying comeback. With 9 seconds left, the freshman forward scored the winning goal, her second of the night.

“It all happened so quickly,” said Warren. “I didn’t even realize there was only 9 seconds left on the clock. We were so pumped up and wanted to win so bad. It was just amazing.”

The rally began when sophomore defender Betsy Duncan scored in the 57th minute, cutting the lead to 2-1.

Then, in the 80th minute, sophomore forward Crystal Chapon, who had two assists on the evening, got the ball to Warren. She tied the score on a header.

Freshman midfielder Kati Tamanaha said snapping North Texas’ 24 home-game winning streak was a big confidence booster going into the game at Denver.

“It showed a lot of heart how we came back,” Tamanaha said. “We didn’t have anything to lose. We knew we had to come out strong and we did.”

Coach Jason Neidell said the second half was one of the most impressive comebacks he has ever seen.

“It was amazing to see our players come out in the second half with such resiliency,” Neidell said. “It was awesome.”

After beating last year’s regular season Sun Belt champions, the Lady Toppers traveled to Denver to take on this year’s conference favorite.

Both teams were perfect in the Sun Belt coming in and shared first place.

Only one team would leave No. 1. It was Denver.

The Lady Pioneers (10-1-2, 5-0) took control of the game early, scoring all of their goals in the first half, en route to a 5-0 shutout.

Western (8-4, 3-1) lost its first conference game of the season and saw it’s five-game winning streak come to an end.

Still, the Lady Toppers saw the weekend as a success.

“We had to show that we can go out on a tough road trip and win, and we did,” Neidell said. “North Texas had a 24 home-game winning streak. To go out and get a win like that was great.”

“Denver is clearly better than everyone else in the conference,” Neidell continued. “We wanted to learn in this game what it would take to beat them come tournament time. Next time we play we’ll be much better prepared.”

Western will continue conference play at Middle Tennessee Friday at 4 p.m.

Reach Jay Lively at [email protected]