In its C-USA home opener on Thursday evening at the WKU Soccer Complex, WKU could not overcome a goal early in each half against Rice in a 2-0 setback.

Three different Lady Toppers (3-6-1, 0-2-1 C-USA) notched a pair of shots on the night as WKU put four of its 10 chances on target. Hannah Chua, Chandler Backes and Sarah Gorham each had two shots, while Chua, Backes, Nahyo Jalajel and Shayna Dheel each placed one shot on goal on the night.

Of the 14 different field players that saw action for WKU on Thursday, six played the full 90 minutes against the Owls. Chua, Backes and Gorham played the full match on the offensive side of the field, while Avery Jacobsen, Nicole Roseland and reigning C-USA Defensive Player of the Week Christina Bragado did not leave the field on defense.

In goal, C-USA Goalkeeper of the Week Allison Leone came away with eight saves against Rice while playing the full 90 minutes; the senior now has 52 stops on the season and has surrendered just 10 goals across 10 matches.

For Rice (6-2-1, 3-0 C-USA), Annie Walker had a match-high five shots and put three of those chances on goal. Seven other Rice players logged one shot on goal apiece; between the posts, Maya Hoyer played the entire match for the Owls, stopping four Lady Topper shots en route to the solo shutout.

Both sides traded early opportunities in the first five minutes of the match, pressing both goalkeepers into action. Just over two minutes after the first kick, Rice’s Walker got her head on a cross from outside the box but could not put enough power behind the effort, sending the shot just to the right of the goal. Less than two minutes later, Dheel responded with WKU’s first chance of the evening. The senior fired a hard shot from inside the box in an attempt to slot it low past Hoyer, but the goalkeeper was there for the save to keep the match scoreless.

At the 11:06 mark, WKU’s defense cleared out Rice’s first corner kick of the match, but Darcy Mickalow played a bouncing through-ball back into the box from 35 yards out. After taking a hard bounce, Nia Stallings headed the loose ball past Leone into the upper left corner of the net to give the Owls an early 1-0 lead.

WKU nearly pulled level on a pair of shots from Backes and Aleksandra Kozovic over the next five minutes, but both Lady Toppers sent their chances over the crossbar. The Lady Toppers again found themselves with an opportunity on a corner kick in the 31st minute as Kozovic played the ball to Gorham, whose shot was parried away by a Rice defender.

Leone kept the Lady Toppers down just one goal just before the halftime break, stonewalling both Samantha Chaiken and Marissa Topolski on strong shots from inside the box over the final five minutes of the first half.

Coming out of the locker room, the Owls doubled their lead as Rebecca Keane collected Lianne Mananquil’s long pass from the midfield and sent a low shot past the outstretched arms of Leone at the 46:57 mark.

Backes nearly pulled a goal back for the Lady Toppers in the 59th minute. Her strong headed effort from the right post came close to beating Hoyer, but the goalkeeper collected the opportunity to end the Lady Topper attack. Seven minutes later, WKU had one of its best chances of the night off a corner kick. Following a scramble inside the box, Chua fired a shot directly at the center of the goal, but again Hoyer was there for the stop.

WKU’s offense generated a pair of shots in the final 10 minutes, but could not find the back of the net in the closing minutes of the match.

WKU will remain at home on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. as the Lady Toppers battle North Texas at the WKU Soccer Complex. Sunday’s match will feature free admission for all fans and will double as WKU Staff Day, as well as the WKU Soccer Camp reunion as all participants from this summer’s camps are invited to attend.

– @WKUSports –

Currie P. McFayden
WKU Associate Director of Athletic Communications