BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – WKU Soccer is set to kick off its 2018 regular season campaign
on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. as the Lady Toppers travel to Murray State before a 6
p.m. swing on Sunday evening to Oxford, Miss., to battle SEC foe Ole Miss.
WKU is coming off a 7-9-1 season in 2017 and put together a 1-1-1 mark in its three
preseason exhibition matches. The Lady Toppers earned a 1-1 draw at Austin Peay and
fell 2-1 against Saint Louis before finishing the exhibition slate with a thrilling
3-2 win over Belmont last Sunday night. Sarah Gorham notched three preseason goals,
including two in the finale against Belmont, and Anne-Marie Ulliac allowed just
three goals while playing 200 minutes between the pipes.
Top returning goalscorer Chandler Backes, who netted WKU’s match-winner against
Belmont in the 79th minute, is back for the Lady Toppers after tallying 16 goals
over her first two seasons on The Hill. Backes’ 16 goals already rank 10th all-time
on WKU’s career goalscoring list, and the Carmel, Ind., native has led the Lady
Toppers in points in each of the last two campaigns.
Gorham, one of four seniors on the roster, did not score in 2017 but was a constant
offensive threat with 30 shots, the second-best mark on the squad. After a trio of
preseason goals, the fifth-year senior alongside Nicole Roseland, Hannah Cady and
Megan Morris, will be looking to close her WKU career in winning fashion.
All of WKU’s seven freshmen saw extensive action in the preseason, led by 2017 Miss
Kentucky Soccer Ambere Barnett’s three starts. Chelsea Moore, Lyric Schmidt and
Olivia Stanley also drew starts across WKU’s three exhibitions, and freshman
goalkeeper Bailee Witt saw just under 90 minutes of action in relief of Ulliac.
Murray State put together a 15-2-2 record in a 2017 campaign that saw the Racers win
both the OVC regular season and tournament championships. Before falling to then-No.
20 Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Murray State dropped only
one contest in the regular season, falling 1-0 at Saint Louis on Sept. 17. Top
scorer Harriet Withers (12 goals) graduated from the programs, but the Racers are
set to return both Rebecca Kubin (seven goals) and Miyah Watford (six goals) to a
powerful offensive attack.
Alex Steigerwald played all but a single minute in goal for Murray State last season
with 67 saves and a 0.66 goals against average and is back for her senior season,
giving first-year head coach Matt Lodge an experienced option in goal.
Ole Miss, who received 12 votes in the United Soccer Coaches’ preseason poll, is
coming off a 10-7-3 season in 2017. Leading scorers CeCe Kizer (16 goals, seven
assists) and Channing Foster (12 goals, two assists) are both back for the Rebels;
Kizer was also the leading scorer among all SEC players last season and was named
the program’s first-ever United Soccer Coaches All-American.
In goal, Marnie Merritt returns after playing all but 121 minutes for Ole Miss in
2017. The redshirt senior made 65 saves and surrendered just 23 goals for a 1.18
goals against average while notching six solo shutouts.
Following this weekend’s matches, WKU will remain on the road for a mid-week tilt at
Evansville next Thursday evening at 7 p.m. The Lady Toppers own a near-perfect 7-1-1
all-time record against the Purple Aces, including a 4-1 victory in the most recent
meeting on Sept. 3, 2017, in Bowling Green last season.