WKU Soccer Head Coach Jason Neidell has announced the 2017 schedule that includes nine home matches at the WKU Soccer Complex and marquee non-conference matchups against Texas and Vanderbilt in the first three weeks of the season.
The Lady Toppers are coming off a 12-6-1 campaign in 2016 that saw WKU earn its highest-ever finish since joining C-USA, claiming third place in the final regular season standings. WKU’s 12 wins were its most in a single season since 2012 and marked the program’s 13th season with double-digit wins in 16 tries. Neidell, the only head coach in program history, earned C-USA Coach of the Year honors following WKU’s strong finish.
WKU’s 2017 slate will open with a pair of exhibition matchups on the road as the Lady Toppers travel to take on Saint Louis (Aug. 11) and Murray State (Aug. 13) for the first in-game look at this season’s squad. Last season, WKU split its pair of exhibition matches, falling 1-0 against Northern Kentucky before rebounding with a 2-0 shutout at Xavier.
WKU will open the regular season on the road for the second straight season, traveling south to battle Lipscomb at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18. The Lady Toppers own a perfect 5-0 mark in school history against the Bisons and hold a 17-2 edge in scoring in the all-time series.
Next up, the Lady Toppers will make one of the longest non-conference road trips in program history, heading just over 13 hours south to face Texas on Aug. 20. The Longhorns finished with an 8-9-1 record in 2016 and will mark just the third time that WKU has squared off against a Big 12 foe after facing Oklahoma State in 2002 and 2003.
Following the Texas trip, WKU will round out its season-opening road trip at Austin Peay on Aug. 25 before returning to the WKU Soccer Complex for the home opener against UT Martin at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27. The Lady Toppers defeated both teams last season, dropping UT Martin 7-1 on the road before claiming a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory over Austin Peay at home.
WKU will remain at home for its next three matches, taking on Evansville (Sept. 3), Vanderbilt (Sept. 8) and Samford (Sept. 10). The Lady Toppers are set to host an SEC opponent for the second straight season after dropping a narrow 1-0 decision against LSU last season and will be seeking their first-ever victory over the Commodores in the first meeting between the two sides since 2012. Against Evansville and Samford, WKU owns a combined 7-2-1 record all-time, but has not fallen to either side since 2005.
C-USA play opens on Sept. 15 for the Lady Toppers, who will trek to Old Dominion for the first of five conference matches on the road this season. WKU will remain on the road for their second match as well, traveling to Southern Miss on Sept. 21.
Rice and North Texas will kick off WKU’s home C-USA slate on Sept. 28 and Oct. 1, respectively. Last season saw the Lady Toppers claim their first-ever victory over the Owls with a 1-0 win in Houston, while WKU nearly knocked off the preseason favorite Mean Green in a tight 2-1 setback on the second leg of its Texas road swing.
Rounding out the road schedule for WKU are trips to archrival Middle Tennessee (Oct. 6), UAB (Oct. 8) and UTSA (Oct. 19). WKU earned shutout victories against all three sides during the 2016 season, outscoring their opponents 5-0 along the way.
WKU will complete its schedule with three home matches against Florida Atlantic (Oct. 13), FIU (Oct. 15) and the regular season finale against Marshall (Oct. 27). Though the Lady Toppers fell, 1-0, at Florida Atlantic last season, the team also claimed identical 1-0 wins over the Panthers and Thundering Herd.
The 2017 C-USA Tournament will be hosted by Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Fla., from Nov. 1-5 with the top eight teams reaching the conference tournament. Last season, WKU entered as the No. 3 seed before falling to eventual champion Charlotte on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals. WKU will be competing in a conference tournament in Boca Raton for the second time in school history after also competing in the Sun Belt Tournament in 2009.
The Lady Toppers return four of their top five point scorers from last season, including All-Freshman and Third Team selection Chandler Backes who led the team with 21 (10 goals, one assist). Also returning for WKU is stalwart goalkeeper Allison Leone, who pieced together a 533-minute shutout streak and a goals against average of 0.60 with nine shutouts in 2016 en route to Second Team All-C-USA honors.
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Currie P. McFayden
WKU Associate Director of Media Relations