WKU Soccer’s Neidell previews roster, gives injury update during media day

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Credit: WKU Athletics

WKU soccer head coach Jason Neidell holding the first C-USA East Division title trophy in program history. Neidell has been the program’s only coach in the team’s existence. 

Drew Toennies, Soccer reporter

WKU Soccer head coach Jason Neidell appeared before members of the media on Monday along with senior captain Avery Jacobsen and forward Lily Rummo to discuss the Hilltoppers’ preseason performance and what to expect from the Lady Toppers heading into the regular season.

The summer break has been a period of rest for some of the team, but for others it has been a time for extra training and conditioning.

“I think every player was a little bit different this summer,” Neidell said. “We told the players to do what they needed for their particular situation. So, some of the players went out and played a lot over the summer and got a lot of experience and minutes. Some of them tried to rest some, and anything in between. I think for the coaching staff, it was just trying to recharge as quickly as we can.”

The WKU head coach also communicated his thoughts regarding the team’s preseason performance in its two exhibition matches in which WKU managed to shut out both competitors, UT Martin and Bellarmine.

“We’ve got a good veteran group back and a nice mix of 10 new players, so there’s a lot of new and old mixed in and a little bit of just trying to find ourselves early on,” Neidell said. “I think one thing that we’ve seen from the exhibition games is that we’re going to be a pretty stingy team defensively, we’re going to be hard to score on.”

Jacobsen also shared her thoughts about her team’s unofficial start to the year, expressing her satisfaction with her squad’s defensive performance.

“We want to have as many clean sheets as possible,” Jacobsen said. “To be 2-0 unofficially and to have two clean sheets is exciting for us. We’re a team that prides ourselves on a stingy defensive effort and that starts with Lyric (Schmidt) and I. To have all four of us returning from last year is extremely exciting and hopefully we can encourage the lines in front of us to have that pride and that stingy defensive effort that we do.”

Neidell stated that in addition to the two exhibition matches played, the team has held 10 practices.

“Right now, we’ve had probably 10 practices, we’ve played two exhibition games. So, we’re good at a lot of things, but we’re not great at anything,” Neidell said. “That’s the innate nature of the beast. You know, we’ve gotten in practice to work on a little sampling of everything but not enough of anything. So now we get to go back and try to fine tune things and work on details.”

The Lady Toppers have been experimenting with position, formation and shape changes in practice, according to Neidell.

“Our junior class has never had a traditional spring season and so the early part of preseason and even the early part of this season, you know, we’re experimenting with a lot of things that we haven’t had a chance to do over the last couple of years,” Neidell said. “Some position changes, some formation and shape changes that we haven’t done. Not just last year has been different, but the last couple of years have been different.”

There have been several players who have impressed Neidell and his coaching staff during the preseason.

“Lily Rummo’s been exceptional. She’s a sophomore now and you know, didn’t count on the stat sheet, but got her first goal of her career against UT Martin last week and she’s been really good. She creates a lot of havoc with her movements and her creativity.”

Rummo addressed the surge of new talent the Hilltoppers have added in the offseason. WKU’s roster features eight freshman along with a pair of graduate transfers and the forward hopes the newcomers are as hungry as the rest of the team is.

“Having all of our starters back, everyone has the same mentality,” Rummo said. “We’re helping the new players have that same mentality. We’ve had a really good community around that.”

Another player to look forward to seeing on the field is WKU freshman Kayla Meyer. Neidell is expecting good things from the Littleton, Colo. native.

“Kayla Meyer is a freshman who’s coming in who we hold in really high esteem and expecting some good things from,” Neidell said.

Neidell gave an update on WKU senior Ambere Barnett, detailing the progression of her recovery from an ACL injury sustained near the end of last season. According to Neidell, Barnett will not return to the field this season, but she will still be a vital member of the team and a mentor to the younger Lady Toppers.

“Her recovery is going really, really well,” Neidell said. “She’s completely invested in the team. She’s still one of our team captains. She’s honestly, at this point, another coach from the sidelines and a mentor to the younger players. She’s been absolutely fantastic.”

However, Neidell communicated that without Barnett on the field, the team’s offense will likely not be where it was last season.

“I think overall, we’re going to have to score by committee,” Neidell said. “I don’t know that we’re going to have anyone score 10 or 15 goals this year, but if we can get five or six players to each chip in four or five, we’ll put ourselves in a good position.”

Neidell said that the goal for this season is no different than any other year.

“New team, new year, but the goals are always the same, we want to be champions and we want to win,” Neidell said. “The players are invested in that process and I keep telling them this but it’s a marathon not a sprint. You know, we don’t have to be the best version of ourselves just yet. We’ve got at least a little bit of time to get there.”

The Lady Toppers will take to the pitch to kick off the regular season this Thursday, Aug. 19 in a match against the Austin Peay Governors. Kick off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT.

Soccer reporter Drew Toennies can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @drew_toennies.