Lady Toppers shut out by UTEP Miners 2-0 on senior day


Arthur Trickett-Wile

Lady Topper sophomore defender Ellie Belcher (11) and UTEP Miners’ junior forward Kam Fisher jockey for control of the ball during a match the Hilltoppers lost 2-0 on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 17 of 2021, at the WKU Soccer Complex.

Drew Toennies, Soccer reporter

WKU Soccer (10-3-0, 5-1-0 C-USA) celebrated its senior day on Sunday at the WKU Soccer Complex following a 2-0 shutout loss against the UTEP Miners (4-10-0, 1-5-0, C-USA) in the Lady Toppers’ penultimate home competition of the fall season. The contest did not count towards Conference USA standings.

“We started off and executed the game plan really really well but then we gave up an early goal on a counter-attack,” WKU Soccer head coach Jason Neidell said after the match. “I thought the second half, we went back to our game plan but down two goals, it was pretty tough to fight back.”

Despite receiving 11 corner kicks, the Lady Toppers were unable to find the back of the net while UTEP junior forward Jojo Ngongo and redshirt junior forward and midfielder Vic Bohdan notched one goal each.

“We created some good stuff and did some things but at the end of the day, we just didn’t have the legs to try to come back from the deficit,” Neidell said.

The Lady Toppers led the Miners 13-10 in shooting while being bested by the Miners 7-6 in shots on goal. WKU received a total of 11 corner kicks while the Miners only had one corner kick the entire match. Both teams had nine fouls while UTEP received one offsides call and a yellow card.

Following the match was the senior day celebration which honored WKU senior midfielder Isidora Pekez, graduate defenders Mackenzie Crittenberger and Avery Jacobsen, fifth year midfielder Sophia Fondren and senior defender Chelsea Moore.

“Whether the seniors have been here one year, two years, four years, five years, they’re all important puzzle pieces to what we’re doing,” Neidell said. “I have nothing but good things to say about this senior group, they have been absolutely amazing. They have invested their heart and soul into this program, I’m so proud of them. I couldn’t say anything more than how awesome this senior group has been to our program, how much they mean to the coaching staff, their teammates in the school and they wear that WKU across the front of their jerseys so so proudly.”

Following the opening kick, WKU junior forward Katie Erwin flew past the UTEP defense and launched an early shot on goal that resulted in two consecutive corner kick opportunities.

A foul on WKU in the first minute of play resulted in a UTEP goal as Ngongo found the back of the net off a penalty kick in the second minute of play.

UTEP freshman midfielder Cayman Temez fired a shot on goal down the bottom center in the 13th minute but WKU graduate goalkeeper Alexis Bach saved the dangerous shot. Bach saved another deadly bullet ten minutes later off the foot of UTEP sophomore midfielder and defender Vanessa Cabello. 

UTEP redshirt freshman forward Taya Lopez took a powerful shot in the 29th minute but Bach got a hand on the ball to notch her third save of the day.

Despite the four corner kick opportunities, the Lady Toppers were unable to notch a goal in the first half of play as UTEP outshot WKU 6-5 and 4-1 in shots on goal.

Another three corner kicks awarded to the Lady Toppers in the 51st, 52nd and 53rd minutes resulted in shot opportunities for both senior defender Lyric Schmidt and graduate defender Avery Jacobsen but no attempt landed a point.

The Miners scored once more in the 57th minute as Bohdan launched a shot past Bach into the back of the net to extend their lead to two.

WKU received a trio of corner kicks in the 60th and 61st minute of the match but the Miners batted away all shot attempts to keep WKU scoreless. The Miners held the Lady Toppers scoreless in the final minutes of play to hand them their third loss of the year.

“The good news is we still have a lot of soccer left to be played and we put ourselves in a really good position with this being a non-conference game,” Neidell said. “Unfortunately, probably knocks us out of an at-large position to maybe make the NCAA Tournament, but it doesn’t count in conference standings so we’re still positioned really, really well in the conference and we’re looking forward to welcoming a really strong Florida Atlantic team next week.”

The Lady Toppers will return to the WKU Soccer Complex for their last home match of the fall season on Friday, Oct. 22 against the FAU Owls. The match will commence at 6 p.m. CT.

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