WKU opens C-USA play with 2-1 overtime defeat of Marshall

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Brittany Fisher

Western Kentucky University Lady Toppers celebrate after Brina Micheels scores the winning goal on a penalty kick against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Thursday Aug. 26, 2021. The Lady Toppers defeated Vanderbilt 3-2.

Drew Toennies, Soccer reporter

The Lady Toppers (6-1-0, 1-0 C-USA) opened up Conference USA play with a thrilling 2-1 overtime defeat of the Marshall Thundering Herd (3-5-1, 0-1 C-USA) at Hoops Family Field in Huntington, West Virginia on Thursday night.

“We knew this was going to be a challenging game,” head coach Jason Neidell said following the win. “Marshall is a greatly improved squad, and there is just so much parity in this league. It feels awfully good to get three valuable points in the opening match. I’m proud of the determination and character our team showed late to equalize and then get the game-winner in overtime. Now we must get ready for a really good Middle Tennessee team on Sunday.”

WKU fifth year midfielder Sophia Fondren was the hero of the evening, notching the game-winning goal in overtime with an assist from sophomore midfielder Brina Micheels.

Graduate defender Mackenzie Crittenberger was also vital in WKU’s defeat of Marshall as she ended the Lady Topper’s scoring drought by burying a low-right shot into the back of the net to tie the match.

WKU outshot the Herd 11-7 and 6-4 in shots on goal. The Lady Toppers also had six offsides calls against them and committed 12 fouls whereas the Herd committed only 7 fouls. 

Graduate defender Avery Jacobsen nearly found the back of the net in the ninth minute of play after WKU was awarded a free kick, but her shot was saved by Marshall freshman goalkeeper Mira Pastoft.

Sophomore forward Lily Rummo had another opportunity in the 23rd minute to notch the first goal for WKU but the shot was once again saved by Pastoft.

Marshall senior forward Kat Gonzalez pushed a shot past the WKU defense in the 26th minute but WKU graduate goalkeeper Alexis Bach was there for the save.

Junior forward Katie Erwin launched a shot towards the Herd’s net in the 35th minute of play, but her attempt was blocked.

Micheels also took a good look in the 40th minute, but Pastoff notched another save to keep the Lady Toppers off the board.

The Lady Toppers entered the half outshooting the Herd 5-1 and 3-1 in shots that were on the mark. 

Marshall freshman forward Meg Jarvis launched a shot that found the back of the net in the 54th minute to give the Thundering Herd a 1-0 lead over the Lady Toppers.

Freshman forward Brooke Sleeva and Micheels each took a shot at Marshall’s net in the 71st minute of play but both were off the mark.

Graduate defender Mackenzie Crittenberger launched a shot past Pastoft in the 81st minute to notch WKU’s first goal of the match and tie up the game 1-1 with just nine minutes left in regulation. 

WKU was tied with Marshall 1-1 at the end of regulation and both squads got ready for an overtime battle to determine the victor.

Less than 30 seconds after the beginning of overtime, WKU fifth-year midfielder Sophia Fondren scored the game-winning goal as she kicked a shot into the back of Marshall’s net to stop the clock and end the match.  

The Lady Toppers return to Bowling Green to host the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on Sunday, Sept. 19 for the second match of the conference slate. The match will kick off at 6 p.m. CT.

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