Bowling Green, Ky. (WBKO) --- WKU Soccer put together its largest shutout margin of victory in a season opener in program history as four different Lady Toppers found the back of the net in Thursday evening’s 5-0 win over Belmont at the WKU Soccer Complex.
Freshman Ansley Cate struck twice in the opening 10 minutes to open the floodgates, with Katie Erwin, Amber Barnett, and Chelsea Moore rounding out the goalscorers for the Lady Toppers. All five goals on Thursday came from underclassmen as Cate and Erwin scored in their official regular-season debuts on The Hill. WKU topped its previous best season-opening shutout margin of 4-0 set in a victory over Grambling State in 2005 with Thursday night’s result.
“I like how hard we came out tonight, I thought we played with a great mentality and incredible intensity,” Head Coach Jason Neidell said. “I thought we scored some critical goals, especially getting that second one right away after the first. Then after being up 3-0 at halftime, we came out in the second half and immediately scored another. Those critical five minutes at the beginning and end of halves are important in soccer; we really took care of those and made it difficult on Belmont tonight.”
WKU (1-0) jumped on the Bruins (0-1) with an 18-2 edge in shot attempts, outshooting Belmont 13-7 in the opening 45 minutes alone. The Lady Toppers also held the Bruins without a corner on the night and allowed just three shots on goal while putting 10 of their own on frame. WKU’s five goals are its second-most ever in a season-opening match, trailing only the seven scored at UT Martin in 2016.
Chandler Backes and Barnett tied for the lead among all players with four shots, matching Belmont’s Julie Garst. Eight different Lady Toppers put at least one shot on goal, with Barnett and Cate each notching a pair.
In goal, Anne-Marie Ulliac and Afton Schraml combined for the shutout victory for WKU, with Ulliac playing the first 75 minutes before giving way to the true freshman. Ulliac finished with three saves, while Schraml was not pressed into action. For Belmont, Lily Herman played the full 90 minutes in goal and made five saves while also surrendering WKU’s five goals.
Cate helped the Lady Toppers to storm out of the gates with two strikes in the opening 10 minutes, marking the third time in the last four seasons that a true freshman has scored at least one goal in WKU’s season opener. Avery Jacobsen and Barnett created Cate’s first opportunity in the fourth minute, while Barnett again served up the chance just five minutes later to give WKU an early 2-0 advantage.
WKU added to its lead in the 34th minute as Erwin joined Cate as true freshman goalscorers on the night. After Olivia Stanley sent a headed effort on goal that was parried away by Belmont’s Herman, the ball fell to Erwin on the left side of the box and the Louisville native slammed home the chance into the upper corner to send WKU into the halftime break with a 3-0 lead.
Despite Belmont looking to cut into the lead coming out of the halftime break, Barnett added another goal for the Lady Toppers just under three minutes into the second frame. Aleksandra Kozovic played a ball into the box that pinballed off freshman Sydney Ernst before dropping to Barnett, and the preseason All-C-USA selection buried the shot past Herman for her first goal of the season.
After missing all three of WKU’s exhibitions, Chelsea Moore pushed WKU to its final 5-0 scoreline in the 80th minute. A long shot from outside the box tipped off Herman’s hands and the goalkeeper was unable to corral the loose ball; Moore streaked through the right side of the box and was able to get a foot on it and find the back of the net to seal the 5-0 victory.
WKU will return to action on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. (CT) as the Lady Toppers make the trip to Lexington to face in-state rival Kentucky. The two sides have not met since a scoreless draw on Sept. 18, 2009, and WKU will be seeking its first-ever win in the series against the Wildcats. Sunday’s match will be carried live on the SEC Network+ as well as ESPN3.