WKU soccer kicksoff Conference USA tournament vs. Rice


The WKU soccer team has the distinct honor of playing not only in their first ever game in a Conference USA soccer tournament, but they’re playing the first game of the entire tourney, as they’ll participate in the #2/#7 game and will face the Rice Owls.

The Lady Tops enter the tournament with a 10-7 overall record and an even 5-5 after it’s first year as a member of Conference USA, and ended the year on with a 3-2 record, with wins coming against MTSU, UAB and Southern Miss and losses to Louisiana Tech and North Texas. They’re lead offensively by Lauren Moats (seven goals, one assist) and Iris Dunn (five goals, one assist), and both are the only two players on the roster with over 20 shots. In speaking with head coach Jason Neidell, he sees an advantage with his team because of the depth they’ve used; he feels the Tops have used their depth more frequently than the rest of the teams in the league, and hopes it’ll show throughout the tournament.

More from Bluegrass Dominion

Defensively for WKU, they’ve relied on true freshman goalie Allison Leone, who has played every minute in goal for WKU this year, and finished the regular season top five in C-USA in shutouts and saves. Leone allowed 21 goals in 17 games all year, recording 85 saves and finishing the year with a 1.20 goals against average.

Rice comes in using a two-forward system, something coach Neidell said has given his club fits over the year, and are lead in that system by Holly Hargreaves and Lauren Hughes, who both made the conference’s first team All-Conference list, and Hughes was voted Offensive Player of the Year. Her 12 goals lead the conference, while Hargreaves wasn’t far behind with 10.

Senior Amy Czyz is the anchor between the pipes for the Owls, as she started all 17 games for Rice, allowing just 13 goals and stopping 64 shots.  She was in goal the last time WKU and Rice met, last August in WKU, in which the teams played to a 0-0 tie, and Czyz stopped all 23 Lady Topper shots.

Aside from looking to advance to the semifinals in their first ever C-USA tournament, WKU is also playing to keep a pretty impressive streak alive – they’ve made it to at least the second round of the conference tournament in each of the past three seasons, last getting bounced in the first round in 2009. It wont be easy though, as the Owls ended the regular season with four straight wins.

Having said that, the Owls haven’t had tremendous success when it comes tournament time. The Owls have won one C-USA tournament game since 2007, and in that span, they’ve hosted the tournament twice. Yes, they were bounced both times.

It’s a big day for WKU soccer, any way you look at it, and we wont have to wait long to see if the Tops will make it to round two, as they’ll kick things off at 10 this morning.

Next: Our Interview with Head Coach Jason Neidell