By Kendrick Jackson, Contributing Writer
West Liberty returns home Sunday for a tough matchup against Notre Dame (Ohio). Mountain East Conference Preseason Poll projects the Lady Falcons to finish first in their division of the MEC conference this season. This is the first year the conference will be broken into North and South divisions for women’s soccer and both teams will represent the North division.
Despite losing four-time First Team All-MEC honoree and two-time MEC Offensive Player of the Year, Alexis Manoa, to graduation last spring, a strong nucleus returns this season for Notre Dame (Ohio) Head Coach, Mike Shiels. Three players who also earned First-Team All MEC last season are all returning to the field this season.
As of Sept. 7, the Lady Falcons are currently 0-3 with all losses coming against non-conference opponents. Do not count this team out of contention just yet. Last season’s team finished runner-up to the MEC Champions, West Virginia Wesleyan, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, first time in school history.
Since the founding of the MEC Conference in 2013, WLU Head Coach Barry Christmas and the Lady Toppers have yet to secure their first win against Notre Dame (Ohio). WLU almost accomplished that challenge in a near upset during the first round of the 2016 MEC Tournament. That also marked their first MEC Tournament appearance.
However, the Black and Gold took a step back last season, finishing the season 4-11-2. There are a few bright spots moving forward into the season.
Two-time All-MEC defender, Caitlyn DeVries, is back for her junior year after helping the Hilltoppers post six shutouts last season. After sitting out the 2017 season with a medical redshirt, forward Kaelyn Oskin returns. Oskin was a First Team All-MEC honoree in 2016 and lead the team in scoring.
As of Sept. 7, West Liberty is 0-2-1. Following Saturday’s matchup against Notre Dame, WLU will travel to Salem University in their first matchup ever. The Lady Tigers of Salem University finished 5-12 last season.
Last year, the Lady Toppers lost a total of six games by one goal, so this year they will look to be on the other side of those one-goal games.
In two games against the Lady Falcons last season, the Hilltoppers lost both games by three goals combined. West Liberty is very familiar with the Notre Dame structure and that is why they always have very close games. This season, the Hilltoppers will try to start conference play with a huge victory.
Action will start at 1 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 9, against Notre Dame.
Photo Credit: Hilltoppersports.com