After kicking off its long homestand last week, WKU is set to close its 2019 non-conference slate this weekend with a pair of matches at the WKU Soccer Complex, with Southern Illinois visiting on Friday evening at 6 p.m. and Alabama A&M making the trip to Bowling Green at 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
Admission to both matches this weekend will be free for all fans. Friday’s match will not feature a live video stream, but Sunday’s tilt will be carried on Facebook via the Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network and will be free to watch.
WKU (2-2-1) dropped a hotly-contested match against SEC opponent Ole Miss in its last time out last Thursday evening, taking the Rebels into double overtime before falling on a late penalty kick golden goal. Anne-Marie Ulliac turned in a strong performance in goal, making a career-best eight saves, and the back line, featuring C-USA Player of the Week selections Christina Bragado and Avery Jacobsen, limited the powerful attack of the Rebels.
Through five matches, the Lady Toppers have allowed only four goals, and just one of those has come during the run of play; Samford scored two of their goals off corner kick situations, and Ole Miss converted their lone strike off a penalty kick. Ulliac has played a key role in those numbers, playing all but 15 minutes in goal this season with 27 saves and only four goals allowed.
Offensively, WKU has racked up eight goals through five matches and is paced by Ansley Cate and Ashley Leonard, who have each found the back of the net twice in non-conference action. Preseason All-C-USA pick Ambere Barnett leads the squad with six points (one goal, four assists) and has also fired a team-best 19 shots as one of the Lady Toppers’ primary playmakers.
Southern Illinois (3-3-1) enters Friday’s match winless in its last three outings, with its last victory coming in a 1-0 win over Belmont on Aug. 30. Since then, the first-year program has dropped matches against IUPUI and Ohio and also battled to a 1-1 draw at Fort Wayne. Emma Spotak and Liz Brechtel lead the Salukis with a pair of goals apiece through seven matches, with Kathryn Creedon and Madison Bennion also finding the back of the net once. Andrea Rodriguez leads the squad with a pair of assists, and Creedon has attempted a team-best 10 shots, putting six on frame.
Dariana Mihalache has seen the lion’s share of minutes in goal, playing 454 of a possible 650 minutes for Southern Illinois and starting six of its seven matches. Mihalache has made 40 saves and allowed just eight goals, good for a goals against average of 1.59 in her freshman season.
Friday’s match with the Salukis will also feature a pair of homecomings for the Southern Illinois coaching staff, as head coach Grant Williams and assistant coach Libby Stout have strong ties to WKU. Williams served as a volunteer assistant for the Lady Toppers from 2006-09 under Jason Neidell, while Stout holds nearly every major goalkeeping record for the Lady Toppers after featuring on The Hill from 2008-11.
Alabama A&M (1-3) picked up its first win of the season in its last time out, defeating North Alabama, 2-1, last Sunday afternoon. The Bulldogs had previously been held scoreless in their first three outings, dropping matches at Mississippi State, Georgia State and Kennesaw State by a combined score of 12-0; they are set to face Alabama-Huntsville on Friday afternoon before making the trip to Bowling Green.
Jameela Barrett and Makayla Rushing have each scored on goal for Alabama A&M through four matches, and Barrett, D’Essence Burnett and Jada Ward are tied for the team lead with one assist apiece. Rushing leads the squad with six shots, but the Bulldogs have been outshot by an 82-18 margin to begin the 2019 campaign.
In goal, Jodi Medina has played all 360 minutes for the Bulldogs, making 29 saves and allowing 13 goals for a 3.25 goals against average. WKU has won both matches in the all-time series, both by 2-0 scorelines with the meetings coming in 2001 and 2002.
Following this weekend’s matches, the Lady Toppers will be back in action for their C-USA opener next Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. in the fourth match of their program-record homestand, taking on Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles will be traveling to Bowling Green for just the second time since WKU joined the league in 2014, and the Lady Toppers hold a narrow 2-1-1 edge in the all-time series, including a 1-0 win in the only other matchup at the Soccer Complex on Sept. 22, 2016.
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Currie P. McFayden
WKU Associate Director of Athletic Communications