WOMEN’S SOCCER: Western races out of SBC gate

Jay Lively

The Lady Toppers continued their winning ways this weekend, shutting out conference rivals Arkansas State on Friday and Arkansas-Little Rock Saturday.

Both games were defensive clashes, with Western squeaking by the Indians and Lady Trojans by the same 1-0 margin.

Coach Jason Neidell praised his team’s defensive effort and namely that of sophomore midfielder Andrea Doogs.

“Andrea Doogs did a fantastic job this weekend,” Neidell said. “She was owning people in the middle of the field. Any time a ball went near her she won it.”

Doogs praised her teammates.

“We all trust each other a lot,” Doogs said. “It has a lot to do with our concentration. We’ve really picked it up in conference play.”

Together, Doogs and her teammates have created a stingy Lady Toppers defense that has been critical in their effort to prove last year’s success wasn’t a fluke.

The lone goal on Friday night came in the 24th minute of the first half, when Kelly Frericks scored off a corner kick from sophomore forward Crystal Shapone.

With a stalwart backfield, that’s all the Lady Toppers needed to pull out the victory as goalie Amy Uhlman recorded eight saves on the evening.

In another defensive battle Saturday, nearly 80 minutes went by before Western scored the first and only goal of the contest against the Lady Trojans.

Frericks got the ball to a dashing Allison Nellis, who juked past a Little Rock defender and fired her team-leading seventh goal by goalie Martha Stewart for the winning shot.

After back-to-back shutouts, the Lady Toppers (7-3, 2-0) have a four-game win streak and a share of first place with Denver in the Sun Belt Conference. Denver is No. 20 in the nation.

Neidell said the weekend sweep was important for his Lady Toppers.

“This was a great weekend for us,” Neidell said. “With these two wins, we pretty much solidified a spot in the postseason conference tournament.”

Western’s conference play was scheduled to begin last Monday night in Miami, but a tragedy in Florida International’s program caused a cancellation two hours before game time.

Former Lady Panther Sasja Odenyo, who was second in NCAA in goals her junior season, and former trainer Theresa Wint were killed in a car accident Sunday night returning to Florida from Atlanta.

The cancellation resulted in a 12-day hiatus for Western before their conference opener against Arkansas State Friday night.

Freshman midfielder Kati Tamanaha said the team practiced hard during the break and were well-conditioned for the doubleheader.

“We scrimmaged a lot this week,” Tamanaha said. “We’re all working real hard right now. It’s conference time. We’re just trying to play our best.”

BEGINITAL Reach Jay Lively at [email protected]