#Women College

Lady Toppers Gear Up for the 2023 Season

The Western Kentucky University Lady Toppers soccer team is preparing for the 2023 season with a couple of exhibition matches under their belt. WKU is coming off a 10-4-3 record last year and a third-place finish in Conference USA. 

Yes, I (Jimmie) love this team and the coaching staff. I live in Bowling Green and I am a West Kentucky native who understands what this team means to this town and this region of our state. However, I can be fair that the team has underwhelming at times.

This year’s squad features 17 returners along with 12 newcomers, including four transfers and eight freshmen. Leading the returners are junior forward Kayla Meyer, the team’s top goal scorer last season with four, and fifth-year senior Katie Erwin, who led the Lady Toppers with four assists in 2022. 

WKU took the pitch for the first time on August 5th in an exhibition at Chattanooga. It was a scoreless first half before the Lady Toppers got on the board. Erwin converted a penalty kick in the 57th minute to give WKU a 1-0 advantage. Meyer then provided an insurance goal in the 71st minute to make it 2-0, which held up as the final score.

The Lady Toppers controlled possession for most of the match and limited Chattanooga to just six shots. Goalkeeper Maddie Davis earned the clean sheet with six saves. It was a promising start for WKU against a quality opponent in Chattanooga, which went 8-5-5 last season.

WKU wrapped up exhibition play on August 10th with a trip to Nashville to face Belmont. It was another solid defensive effort for the Lady Toppers, who notched a 1-0 victory. This time it was freshman Rylee Finol scoring the lone goal in the 23rd minute. 

The Lady Toppers held Belmont to just four shots and one on goal across the full 90 minutes. Three different WKU goalkeepers saw time in goal, combining for the shutout. 

With two shutout wins under their belt, the Lady Toppers appear poised for another successful season. The defensive effort displayed in the exhibition matches is a good sign as WKU allowed just 18 goals in 20 matches last season.  

The real games begin on August 17th as WKU opens at home against Tennessee Tech to kick off a six-match homestand. The Lady Toppers will look to keep their momentum going from the exhibition season into the regular season. With Meyer and Erwin leading the attack and a stingy defense, WKU is ready to make noise again in Conference USA.

(Photo: WKU)

The Lady Toppers will be led by veteran Ambere Barnett as the WKU midfielder was named to the 2023 Conference USA Preseason Team as voted on by the league’s coaches.

Despite missing the previous two seasons due to injury, Barnett’s pedigree and past achievements clearly still impress. This is just the latest preseason honor for the Rockport, Indiana native. 

Back in the spring of 2021 which now seems long ago, Barnett became WKU’s first women’s soccer All-American when she earned Third Team honors from United Soccer Coaches. In that same historic season, Barnett was also named the C-USA Player of the Year and Midfielder of the Year after leading the Lady Toppers’ midfield.

As Barnett returns from a long absence, she will try to quickly shake off any rust and prove she’s still one of the elite players in Conference USA. If she can regain her prior form, it will provide a major lift in WKU’s hunt for a league championship. Barnett is one of only two C-USA representatives on the preseason all-conference team, joined by forward Nikole Solis from FIU. Heavy favorites Liberty lead the way with four selections. Barnett is finally healthy and cleared to return to action for the 2023 season and WKU will be better off with her. 

(Photo: Steve Roberts/WKU Athletics)

In the C-USA preseason poll, the coaches picked WKU to finish fourth in 2023 behind perennial powers Liberty, New Mexico State, and Louisiana Tech. The Lady Toppers will look to exceed expectations with Barnett anchoring the midfield once again.

Liberty was selected by C-USA coaches as the preseason favorite heading into their first season in the conference. New Mexico State senior Loma McNeese was named the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year while LA Tech’s Josie Studer and Liberty’s Bridie Herman earned Preseason Defensive Co-Player of the Year honors. Liberty led the way with 5 selections on the preseason all-conference team. 

The 2023 Conference USA women’s soccer season is shaping up to be a competitive one at the top. The Lady Flames received 5 first-place votes to edge out New Mexico State, which garnered 3 first-place votes. Defending C-USA tournament champion LA Tech was picked third and received the other first-place vote. WKU came in fourth in the preseason poll after finishing third last season. Rounding out the top half of the predicted order of finish were FIU at fifth and Middle Tennessee at sixth. The bottom three spots went to UTEP, Sam Houston in their inaugural C-USA season, and Jacksonville State which is also joining C-USA this year. The top six teams will qualify for the conference tournament this year in Ruston, Louisiana hosted by LA Tech.

Conference USA welcomes four new members this year as Jacksonville State, Liberty, New Mexico State, and Sam Houston join LA Tech, WKU, FIU, MTSU, and UTEP to bring the total membership to nine schools. 

Make sure to stick to Bluegrass Soccer Cast (@BGSoccerCast on all social media platforms) for full coverage of the WKU Lady Toppers soccer team and everything soccer in our beautiful Commonwealth. 

Author

  • Jimmie Martin

    Jimmie Martin is a charismatic soccer podcast host from Kentucky who passionately advocates for Promotion and Relegation in US Soccer. With infectious enthusiasm and a lighthearted sense of humor, he engages fellow enthusiasts on the Bluegrass Soccer Cast. Jimmie's goal is to promote the growth of soccer in the US while entertaining and educating his audience.

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