Bowling Green, Ky. — The Western Kentucky University women‘s soccer team — which clinched the Sun Belt Conference regular-season championship for the first-time in the program’s history Friday — had five players receive all-conference accolades Tuesday including the Player of the Year Morgan Thomas.
“Player-of-the-Year awards usually go to attacking players, so what a great accomplishment for Morgan and her defensive teammates. Morgan is an awesome player and person, and I am very excited for her,” stated head coach Jason Neidell.
Thomas was selected as a first-team defender along with midfielder Alicia Dalby and goalkeeper Meredith Goodson. Rachel Friedman and Mallory Outerbridge were honored with second-team awards.
“There are so many great players in this conference. It is truly an honor to be recognized among the very best in the Sun Belt. While these awards are a huge compliment to individual effort and talent, these kids are great team players who also understand that their accomplishments are not possible without an incredible supporting cast of teammates,” said Neidell. “All of our success this year has been a team effort, and tonight we celebrate the entire team. I am so proud of each and every player, and I thank them for their spirit, coachability and determination.”
This season, Thomas has recorded four goals including two match-winners, most recently in a 1-0 overtime victory against North Texas. The sophomore from Franklin, Tenn., has 10 points on the season with two assists. The defender is a part of a unit that has allowed only 12 goals all season and has held opponents to just 190 shots. She is tied for sixth on the all-time career goal list in WKU history.
Dalby is fourth on the team with 16 points on five goals and six assists. The senior co-captain from Tulsa, Okla., recorded one of the team’s two hat tricks on the year after scoring three goals against instate rival Eastern Kentucky. Dalby ranks second on the career assists list and is seventh for assists in a season.
A solid figure for the Lady Toppers in the goal this season, Goodson is ranked 16th in the nation in save percentage and 25th in goals against average. Her save percentage of .893 in league play leads the conference and her 0.54 GAA is second in the league. The senior from Newnan, Ga., has recorded four shutouts and stopped 76 shots. She holds 12 of the 14 WKU goalkeeping records. Goodson recently received her second ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District IV honor as well.
Friedman, who also plays on the backline for the Lady Toppers, assisted on five goals this season. The sophomore from Swansea, Ill., helped anchor a defense that is among the best in the SBC. She had multiple assists in a 6-0 victory against Troy. Friedman collected her first academic all-district award last week.
Outerbridge — who is the first international player in the women’s soccer program’s history — led the team with 19 points on the year. The freshman forward scored seven goals and assisted on five others. The Regina, Saskatchewan, native led the squad with four match-winning goals this season. She is one shot shy of the number one spot for shots in a season in the Lady Topper record book.
In addition to five Lady Toppers being selected to the all-conference teams, Neidell was honored as the Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year. He has led WKU to the top of the SBC for the first time in school history. Under his direction the Lady Toppers rewrote the school record books, reeling off a 10-match winning streak and a 12-match unbeaten streak. This year marked the first time that WKU defeated a Southeastern Conference school after the Lady Toppers earned a 2-1 win over Mississippi State.
WKU finished the regular season with a 13-2-3 overall record and 8-1-2 in league action.
“I am thankful to the Sun Belt coaches who have been so gracious to our players and staff this year. Our WKU administration, support staff, coaches and faculty mentors have been incredible,” remarked Neidell. “This award really goes to our team’s hard-working and loyal staff — Chris Tinius, Grant Williams, Matt Cahoon, Duane Hall, Bryan Tatum and Amy Uhlman. Most importantly, our players have been so positive and tremendous in every respect, and I am grateful for these kids.”
The top-seeded Lady Toppers look to make their way to the Sun Belt Conference title match for the first time in school history starting on Wednesday at 7 p.m. (CST) when they face host South Alabama. WKU defeated USA earlier this season 1-0 in double-overtime.