Three second-half goals, including a direct free kick from Aleksandra Kozovic in the 47th minute, spurred WKU to a 3-1 victory on the road at UTSA’s Park West Athletics Complex on Thursday evening.
WKU (6-8-1, 3-4-1 C-USA) extended its winning streak to three matches after downing Florida Atlantic and FIU last weekend. Hannah Cady scored her first goal since her freshman campaign in 2015 for WKU’s second strike of the night, and Chandler Backes totaled her 16th career goal to ice the win for the Lady Toppers late in the match.
“UTSA is a good team. They compete hard and battle for 90 minutes. We challenged our kids at halftime to play with more fight, and I was proud to see that mentality come out in the second half,” Head Coach Jason Neidell said. “Hannah Cady has been playing great and earned a well-deserved match-winner for the team tonight. I’m really proud of our kids.”
The Lady Toppers held a 10-8 advantage in total shots and a 6-5 edge in shots on goal on the evening. Cady and Tally Bishop each had a match-high two shots on goal for WKU, and Hannah Chua notched a pair of shots as well as an assist on Cady’s goal. Freshman Deven Jackson also tallied an assist, helping to set up Backes’ strike in the 86th minute with an aggressive run into the box.
Allison Leone played the full 90 minutes between the posts for WKU, making four critical saves to keep the Roadrunners’ attack at bay.
For UTSA (2-13, 1-7 C-USA), Ellis Patterson had a pair of shots on goal, and Cailey Elder and Sarah Bayhi earned assists on Jordyn Lacy’s late goal. Michelle Cole played the full match in goal for the Roadrunners, allowing WKU’s three goals while making a trio of saves.
Less than five minutes into the match, Leone came up with a stop on Patterson, UTSA’s leading scorer, to deny the Roadrunners an early goal. Patterson attempted to chip a shot high over Leone but misplayed the strike, allowing the senior to corral the chance and end the UTSA threat.
Patterson again threatened in the 23rd minute, only for Leone to again maintain the deadlock for the Lady Toppers. Facing down the UTSA attack as it entered the right side of the box, the Kennesaw, Ga., native made a strong standing save, catching Patterson’s effort for her second stop of the evening.
WKU enjoyed two chances in the final 10 minutes of the half as Chua and Ashley Leonard each found space from distance to shoot, but both shots went just wide right of the goal to send the two sides into the halftime break locked in a 0-0 draw.
Just 92 seconds into the second half, Kozovic put the Lady Toppers on the board on a direct strike off a free kick from the left side of the box. Set up by a UTSA foul, the sophomore put a strong curl on the shot as it hooked back in toward the goal, dropping just under the crossbar to beat Cole into the top right corner for the go-ahead goal and the first of her collegiate career.
Bishop had an opportunity to double WKU’s lead five minutes later, collecting a ball deep in the box and creating a one-on-one opportunity against Cole. The freshman, who had scored in WKU’s two most recent matches entering Thursday’s tilt, fired on goal but could not beat the keeper on her low attempt.
In the 65th minute, Jackson also nearly put the Lady Toppers ahead 2-0 but could not quite find the back of the net. After a failed UTSA clearance gave the freshman possession inside the box, Jackson caught the goalkeeper charging and attempted to fire into the bottom right corner, sending her chance just to the right of the post.
A quick flurry of goals in the final 10 minutes brought the two sides to the final scoreline. At the 82:18 mark, Chua slipped in a pass from the top of the box to Cady, who had worked her way behind the UTSA defense. Set up without a defender in front of her, the junior buried her shot past Cole to put the Lady Toppers ahead 2-0 with under eight minutes to play.
UTSA pulled a goal back in the 85th minute off the foot of Lacy. The Roadrunners played a long ball up from the midfield and Lacy spun around her defender to send a shot past Leone, cutting the WKU lead in half with five minutes remaining on the clock.
Backes sealed the victory at the 85:58 mark for the Lady Toppers, tallying her sixth goal of the season. Jackson’s initial charge was halted by Cole, but the ball popped up as the goalkeeper slid in, falling straight to Backes who converted the opportunity from 15 yards out to reach the final 3-1 score.
WKU will return to the pitch at home for the final time this season in its next time out, taking on Marshall at the WKU Soccer Complex next Friday, Oct. 27, at 6 p.m. The five Lady Topper seniors; Leone, Chua, Nahyo Jalajel, Shayna Dheel and Bria Mosley; will be honored in a post-match ceremony following the battle against the Thundering Herd.
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Currie P. McFayden
WKU Associate Director of Athletic Communications