Backes’ late goal lifts Lady Toppers
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Two early goals from Sarah Gorham put WKU in front in the first
half, and a late strike from Chandler Backes helped the Lady Toppers overcome a
furious rally by Belmont in a 3-2 WKU victory in exhibition action at the WKU Soccer
Complex on Sunday evening.
With its final exhibition contest in the books, WKU finishes the preseason with a
1-1-1 record after previously earning a 1-1 draw at Austin Peay and dropping a 2-1
decision against Saint Louis.
Gorham wrapped up the preseason with her second and third goals of exhibition play,
and the Lady Toppers totaled five as a team across the three matches. Backes added
the match-winner on Sunday, and Aleksandra Kozovic scored off a direct free kick
against Saint Louis on Friday night.
As a team, WKU controlled the offensive flow for much of the night, outshooting
Belmont 19-4 for the match and 10-2 in the second half alone. After being held
without a corner kick opportunity on Friday, the Lady Toppers had a 6-1 advantage in
the category on Sunday with three in each half. Gorham led all players with four
shots, three of which were on goal; for Belmont, Jessi Boozer led the Bruins with a
pair of shots.
In goal, Anne-Marie Ulliac drew the start and played the first 66 minutes before
giving way to Bailee Witt for the remainder of the match. Both allowed only one
goal, and Witt earned the decision for being between the posts when Backes notched
the match-winner. Abby Hunt and Lily Herman each played a half for Belmont, with
Herman taking the loss despite six second-half saves.
WKU attacked early and often with both Ambere Barnett and Backes testing Hunt over
the first six minutes. Gorham knocked in the early go-ahead goal at the 8:11 mark
after a strong buildup through the midfield. Nicole Roseland slotted a pass through
to freshman Lyric Schmidt, who found Gorham with a long through ball behind the
defense. The redshirt senior dribbled past the hard-charging goalkeeper and scored
on the empty net for the 1-0 lead.
Just under four minutes later, Gorham again found Hunt out of position to double
WKU’s lead. Kozovic played the ball up for the midfielder who converted into the
empty net to put the Lady Toppers up 2-0 just under 12 minutes into the match.
Two corners in the 33rd minute gave the Lady Toppers a chance to add another
first-half goal, but the Belmont defense held strong, parrying away a shot from
Gorham and seeing a shot from Schmidt go just wide to send the two sides into the
Belmont cut WKU’s lead in half just one minute into the second frame. Sarah Bossung
set up a free kick from 35 yards out and placed the ball right on the foot of Boozer
for the tap-in goal to put the Bruins on the board. Belmont threatened again in the
48th minute, but the would-be equalizer flew well to the left of the goal.
An own goal by WKU in the 69th minute leveled the match at 2-2. A strong shot by
Belmont’s Julie Garst ricocheted hard off a WKU defender and into the right corner
of the goal, erasing the Lady Toppers’ early advantage and setting up a race to the
finish over the final 20 minutes.
Kerragan Mulzer’s great run down the right side and a well-placed cross into the
center of the box for Backes proved to be the difference in the match. The freshman
connected with WKU’s top returning goalscorer at the 78:33 mark, and Backes’ hard
strike found the back of the net for the decisive goal. Despite a late push in the
final minute by the Bruins, WKU’s defense held strong to claim the 3-2 win.
WKU is now set to open the 2018 regular season on Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. with a
road trip to Murray State. The Lady Toppers own a 4-1 lead in the all-time series
against the Racers, including a 4-0 victory in the most recent meeting between the
two sides on Sept. 12, 2008.
WKU falls to Saint Louis in first home exhibition game
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – WKU stymied a powerful Saint Louis offense for much of the
evening, but Olivia Petit’s breakthrough in the 83rd minute dealt the Lady Toppers a
2-1 exhibition setback on Friday evening at the WKU Soccer Complex.
Aleksandra Kozovic, who previously scored off a direct free kick at UTSA last
season, replicated the feat early in the match to give WKU an early lead. Freshman
Olivia Stanley had a pair of shots as she earned the first start of her collegiate
career, and six of WKU’s seven freshmen saw action in the second exhibition match of
Saint Louis held a 16-6 advantage in shots on the night and held the Lady Toppers
without a corner kick. In goal, Anne-Marie Ulliac came up big in key moments for
WKU, making five saves while playing the full 90 minutes. For the Billikens, Olivia
Silverman played the full match with one save while surrendering Kozovic’s strike.
Despite an early threat from the Billikens off a corner kick, WKU struck first on
the night at the 10:58 mark. Chandler Backes was brought down by the hard-charging
Saint Louis goalkeeper just outside the box, setting up the Lady Toppers with a free
kick opportunity from just 20 yards out. With Backes over the ball, Kozovic took the
free kick after a short run and buried it into the lower right corner for the early
The Billikens responded just under 10 minutes later to level the match at 1-1.
Annabelle Copeland made a long run down the left side and drew Ulliac out of goal
with a charge. The redshirt junior slid to try to collect the ball but Copeland was
able to pull her dribble around Ulliac’s outstretched arms and fire into the empty
net for the equalizer.
Saint Louis drew three corner kick opportunities over the final 25 minutes of the
first half, but WKU’s defense held strong and sent the two sides into the locker
room level at one goal apiece.
Early in the second half WKU’s forwards went on the attack but were caught offsides
three times in the first 15 minutes of the frame. On the last try, Backes flipped an
overhead ball to Stanley with no one to beat before the goalkeeper, but the freshman
was caught just offside by the sideline referee to end the dangerous threat.
In the 74th minute, Ulliac came up with a pair of fantastic saves to maintain the
deadlock. Petit fired from point-blank range to Ulliac’s left and the Canadian
parried the shot to the right, where Evie Lavelle was there for the rebound. Despite
a second chance from just five yards out, Ulliac again denied the Billikens and sent
the ball out of play with a strong save.
Petit found the match-winner at the 82:55 mark for Saint Louis. Isabella Palazzolo
took a long run up the left side of the field and sent a cross into the box, and
Petit was there with a strong volley into the back of the net to take the lead. WKU
pushed up over the final five minutes looking for an equalizer, but were unable to
come away with a chance on goal.
WKU will round out its preseason exhibition slate on Sunday evening at 6 p.m. as the
Lady Toppers welcome Belmont to the WKU Soccer Complex. Following that match, WKU
will hit the road for its regular season opener, heading to Murray State at 3 p.m.
on Friday, Aug. 17, as the 2018 season officially gets underway.