Sophomore Chandler Backes tallied her second goal of the season on a penalty kick early in the second half, but WKU could not overcome a pair of second-half goals from Austin Peay at the Morgan Brothers Soccer Field on Friday evening in a 2-1 setback.
After registering just two shots in the opening 45 minutes of play, WKU’s offense came alive in the second half, tallying seven shots as the Lady Toppers applied pressure during the search for an equalizer. Backes finished with a match-high four shots, and five other Lady Toppers recorded one on the evening, including Paige Goodman’s near-goal at the end of the first half.
Backes’ penalty kick goal for the Lady Toppers was the program’s first since Oct. 18, 2015, when former player Olivia Fitzgerald scored from the spot in a 3-1 victory at Charlotte. The goal was also Backes’ 12th of her career in just 22 matches on The Hill.
Allison Leone played the full 90 minutes in goal for WKU, notching three saves on the night. For Austin Peay, Mary Parker Powell manned the posts for the full match, allowing the penalty kick goal and making one stop.
Neither side could create an offensive opportunity over the opening 15 minutes of the match until the Lady Govs’ Claire Larose broke free up the left side on a counterattack. Faced with a one-on-one situation, Leone stonewalled Larose’s attempt and kept the match level early in the first half.
Just before the halftime break, Goodman nearly scored her first collegiate goal that would have sent the Lady Toppers into the locker room with a one-goal edge. The Lake Orion, Mich., native tried to chip a shot over Powell from inside the box and managed to sneak the attempt just under the crossbar, but the Austin Peay goalkeeper corralled the shot to send the two sides into the break in a scoreless tie.
Backes put the Lady Toppers in front with her first collegiate penalty kick at the 48:40 mark. Freshman Victoria Mayo drew the foul after being brought down hard on the right side of the box, and Backes buried the attempt from the spot past Powell to give WKU a 1-0 lead just under four minutes into the second half.
Austin Peay responded with an equalizer two and a half minutes later off the foot of Kirstin Robertson. Set up by a cross from Morgan Jackson on the left side, Robertson narrowly beat Leone to pull the Lady Govs even in the 52nd minute of play.
After Shelby Stewart’s penalty kick goal gave Austin Peay a 2-1 lead in the 72nd minute, WKU poured on the offensive pressure over the next 15 minutes in an attempt to pull even. Kaylyn Bryant’s blast over the crossbar in the 82nd minute, created off an Aleksandra Kozovic corner, nearly leveled the match, while both Mayo and Backes each had chances blocked by defenders.
In the final minute of the match, Backes had a chance from a tough angle blocked away, and Nicole Roseland’s corner kick from the right side could not connect with a target in the box as time expired.
WKU will return to action on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. against UT Martin for its first home match of the season at the WKU Soccer Complex. Admission for all home matches is free this season, and the first 250 fans in attendance on Sunday will receive a free WKU Soccer schedule magnet detailing all nine home dates. The Lady Toppers sport a perfect 2-0 record against the Skyhawks with victories in each of the last two seasons and will be looking to maintain their stellar 13-3 overall record in home openers in program history.
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Currie P. McFayden
WKU Associate Director of Athletic Communications