By Kendrick Jackson, Advertising Manager
West Liberty’s women’s soccer team ended their historic 2016 season one loss away from advancing to their first Mountain East Conference championship game in program history.
Kicking off their season opener tonight, the Lady Hilltoppers are ranked fourth in the MEC Coaches’ Preseason Poll. This is the highest preseason ranking ever for the women’s soccer program at West Liberty, but team captain and senior, Thanna Oddo, isn’t going to grow complacent.
“To get to up number 4 is a really great privilege for us. We have worked very hard to get to that point to be ranked in the top 4, but it’s just a preseason poll, it doesn’t say anything,” said Oddo.
Barry Christmas, head coach of West Liberty’s women’s soccer, has been instrumental in the program’s transformation to a Mountain East Conference powerhouse. Founded in 2011, Coach Christmas and his Lady Toppers finished their inaugural season with only two wins.
Christmas isn’t the only one excited about the arrival of the men’s soccer team this season. “We are getting a second team, we’re getting a turf field, they are expanding on us, and that’s always exciting to be able to share that same kind of love for a game with another team,” said Oddo.
The Lady Toppers have enormous expectations entering this season. Last season, three players received first-team All-MEC honors, and the team made it to the postseason, both firsts for women’s soccer at West Liberty.
No. 2 Norte Dame College (Ohio) interrupted West Liberty’s historic run by defeating the Lady Toppers in double overtime in last year’s MEC semifinals. The Lady Falcons went on to become the 2016 MEC champions, and also made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The two squads will meet on Sept. 24 and Oct. 28, which is also the Lady Toppers senior night and last game of the regular season. “It’s going to be very high intense games, really do or die; it’s time to get in gear, and really focus on winning those high up games,” said Oddo.
Before they can avenge last season’s heartbreaking defeat, Christmas and company must first face the task at-hand tonight against California University (Pa.). Faculty and students can check out the season-opener tonight at 5 p.m. For more updates on WLU soccer, please visit www.hilltoppersports.com.
Photo credit: hilltoppersports.com