BOWLING GREEN, Ky. An incredible defensive effort by WKU Soccer fell just short on Thursday evening at the Soccer Complex as Ole Miss escaped with a 1-0 victory after a golden goal penalty kick in the second overtime period.
Channing Foster was awarded a penalty kick in the 108th minute after what was ruled a foul in the box and converted the penalty for the visiting Rebels (4-1). For the second time in less than a week, WKU (2-2-1) came within seconds of earning a draw before a late dramatic goal after Samford also netted a golden goal in the final minute last Friday evening.
Goalkeeper Anne-Marie Ulliac turned in arguably her strongest performance of the season thus far, making eight saves with six in the second half as the Lady Toppers fended off Ole Miss’ best effort to score the match-winner in regulation. Another strong performance by the back line, limiting the Rebels to putting less than half of their shots on goal, kept WKU in the match until the late penalty call.
“I think we’re at the point in our program where you look at our kids after a match like this and there’s a real sense of disappointment. There are no moral victories any more,” Head Coach Jason Neidell said. “Unless we get wins against teams like Kentucky and Ole Miss, it doesn’t mean anything. We’re disappointed, we felt like tonight we could have gotten a tie; like I said, that says a lot about our kids and their character.”
Offensively, Chandler Backes led WKU with three shots on the night, and both Ambere Barnett and Ansley Cate had a pair of shots as well. Barnett played the full 107 minutes, alongside back liners Kaylyn Bryant, Avery Jacobsen and reigning C-USA Defensive Player of the Week Christina Bragado.
For Ole Miss, Foster tied for the lead among all players with four shots including the match-winning penalty kick; Haleigh Stackpole also notched four shots on the night for the Rebels. In goal, Ashley Orkus played the entire match, earning the shutout after making five saves.
WKU came out firing and controlled the pace for much of the first half, putting three shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes from Backes, Cate and Barnett. Much as they have all season, the Lady Toppers were seeking an early go-ahead goal to pin back the Rebels, but Orkus was able to corral all three attempts to keep the match level.
Ole Miss’ lone scoring chance of the opening 45 minutes came in the 44th minute off the foot of Foster, but Ulliac was up to the challenge and snagged the long shot out of the air to send the two sides into the locker room in a scoreless draw.
In the second half, the script was much different as the Rebels enjoyed several scoring chances, putting six of their nine shots on goal and forcing Ulliac to work to preserve the shutout. The Canadian made three saves in an eight-minute span midway through the half and helped the defense to weather eight corner kicks (of 15 total in the match) in the second 45-minute frame.
Aleksandra Kozovic nearly claimed a late winner for the Lady Toppers in the 83rd minute. Set up with a free kick just outside the box, Kozovic fired on goal but was unable to slip the shot past Orkus as regulation ended without a goal.
Ulliac again saved the Lady Toppers early in the first overtime period, parrying away a chance from Lonnie Mulligan in the opening minute before Victoria Mayo nearly claimed the match for WKU. Mayo shot from distance at the 95:28 mark, forcing Orkus to jump and barely tip the ball over the bar to extend the match.
In the second overtime, both sides battled almost evenly until Foster drew the penalty kick in the 108th minute to win the match.
WKU will now be off for eight days before resuming its homestand next Friday, Sept. 13, at 6 p.m. against first-year program Southern Illinois. That will be the first of two matches scheduled for next weekend, with the Lady Toppers also set to take on Alabama A&M on Sunday, Sept. 15, at 1 p.m. As with all matches at the Soccer Complex this season, admission will be free for both events.