Denton, Texas — After finishing the regular season with just one loss, the Western Kentucky University soccer program earned five all-Sun Belt Conference selections on Tuesday night at the league’s annual banquet the night before the opening round of the SBC Tournament.
The Lady Toppers received four first-team selections — defender Morgan Thomas, midfielder Kellie Walker, defender Rachel Friedman and goalkeeper Libby Stout. Kristin Cocchiarella was named second-team all-conference as a forward.
"We are extremely excited for our team. There are so many great players in this conference, and we are thrilled and grateful to have our players mentioned among the SBC’s best," stated head coach Jason Neidell. "Being honored with four first-team and one second-team selection is a testament to our program’ growth, as well as the sweat and tears of current and former Lady Toppers. Morgan, Libby, Rachel, Kellie and Kristin are all wonderful team players who realize that their success is possible because of an amazing supporting cast of teammates and friends."
Thomas — the 2007 SBC Player of the Year — has anchored a defense that is ranked in the top in the nation. The Franklin, Tenn., native has recorded two goals from her back-line position.
Walker has recorded seven goals and two assists on the season from her striking-midfield position. She scored two goals in match against North Texas — which gave the Lady Toppers the lead at that point in the game. Walker has also recorded two assists on the season for a total of 16 points. She is one goal behind Cocchiarella for the team lead.
Friedman — who has started every match for WKU over the past two seasons — has helped anchor the defense with Thomas that ranks highly in the nation. The Swansea, Ill., resident has assisted on two Lady Topper goals this year but has been an outside threat to make something happen, when called upon. Last season, Friedman was selected to the second team and was chosen to ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District squad.
Stout rounds out the first-team for WKU being selected to her first all-conference team in her young career. The freshman has set the new school record for shutouts in a season (12) and that mark also ranks her third all-time in the conference’s history for shutouts in a season. The Louisville, Ky., native ranks second in the NCAA in save percentage (0.923) and sixth in goals-against-average (0.386). She and the squad rank fourth in shutout percentage (0.667) and rank in the top in all-SBC categories.
Cocchiarella — who has led the Lady Toppers the past three years on scoring — was selected to her first all-conference team. The Niceville, Fla., native leads the team in goals (8) and points (21). Added to her eight goals, the senior has assisted on five other WKU goals. Cocchiarella also leads the squad in match-winning-goals with three.
The Lady Toppers will look to advance to their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament with a Sun Belt Conference Championship. WKU will play in the first round of the SBC tournament tomorrow against FIU at 4 p.m. (CDT).