BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - WKU Soccer takes to the road this weekend to begin the 2012 season with a demanding two-game exhibition slate that features teams that both reached the NCAA Tournament in 2011. The Lady Toppers travel to Martin, Tennessee to meet defending OVC champion Tennessee-Martin on Friday at 7:00pm and face defending Conference USA champion Memphis on Sunday in Memphis at 1:00pm.
"Two great teams," head coach Jason Neidell said. "Two NCAA Tournament teams that we start off with for exhibitions, so I think we will have a real good measuring stick to see where we are heading into the season. I think the girls are excited to play someone other than themselves."
The Lady Toppers reported to campus in late July for the fall campaign, having participated in a rigorous preseason practice schedule that began Aug. 1. Neidell welcomes back 16 letterwinners from a 2011 squad that finished the year 13-6-3 and reached the championship game of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament for the second time in four years. Senior captains Courtney Rymer, Amanda Buechel and Ali Stahlke are among six starters that return for the Lady Toppers.
"I am really pleased with the girls and the attitudes they have brought to the field," said Neidell. "Our work has been tremendous and they have been really coachable. We have had some really great practices. I think we are in a good place right now and a really good place to start the season. We are really excited about kicking it off."
Neidell's squads have enjoyed great success in recent seasons and are again expected to compete for the Sun Belt Conference title in 2012. Since 2007, the program's .706 winning percentage is the best among active Sun Belt Conference teams while their 37 wins during the same time period are the second most among active teams. The team has won at least 13 games in four of the last five seasons.
The two-game exhibition stretch marks the opening competitions of the 2012-2013 academic year for WKU Athletics.
The Lady Toppers will travel to Martin, Tennessee for a Friday night matchup with the Skyhawks of UTM at Skyhawk Field. The Skyhawks reached the first round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago after winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament and finishing the season with a 14-7-2 record. The team returns 13 players, including eight starters. The teams have never met in the regular season.
On Sunday, a familiar Memphis squad will host the Lady Toppers. Last season, #20/24 Memphis defeated the Lady Toppers 2-0 at the WKU Soccer Complex on Sept. 4, 2011. It was just the fourth time in program history that the Lady Toppers had met a ranked opponent. The Lady Tigers reached the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive year in 2011, posting a 21-1-1 record last year. The team returns 14 letterwinners, including six starters. The Lady Tigers finished the 2011 season ranked ninth in the NSCAA rankings. The preseason favorite to win Conference USA, Memphis is led by preseason Offensive Player of the Year Christabel Oduro, who scored 16 goals a year ago.
The exhibition road swing is the start to a challenging 2012 schedule for the Lady Toppers. The 18-game schedule includes eight non-conference games and ten games against opponents from the Sun Belt Conference. Among the eight non-conference games are home contests with Southeastern Conference foes Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The conference schedule opens Sept. 21 with a two-game home stand against Arkansas State and Arkansas-Little Rock. The 2012 Sun Belt Conference Tournament will be held in Mobile, Alabama, November 1-4.
Single game tickets for WKU home games are available through the WKU Ticket Office by calling 270-745-5222 or 1-800-5-BIG-RED. Tickets can also be ordered online at www.wkusports.com. In addition, a game ticket package with nine vouchers that can be used for any game during the 2012 season are available for just $25 through the ticket office.
For complete coverage of WKU Soccer, visit the official website of WKU Athletics at www.wkusports.com.