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MORNING BRIEFING: Unbeaten Lady Toppers
by Paul Kennedy, October 16th, 2008 8AM

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You probably know all about the major unbeatens -- No. 1 Notre Dame (14-0-0), No. 2 Stanford (12-0-1) and No. 3 UCLA (11-0-2) -- but there's another unbeaten you may have never heard about: the Lady Toppers of Western Kentucky.

Western Kentucky is 10-0-3 with four straight shutout wins. The season began with a 2-1 overtime win over the SEC's Mississippi

The Lady Toppers have gotten balanced scoring. Kristi Cocchiarella (7 goals, 2 assists), Amanda Buechel (5 goals, 5 assists), Megan Meinke (5 goals, 3 assists) and Kellie Walker (4 goals, 2 assists) all have 10 or more points.

Freshman Libby Stout, who has play all but two minutes in goal, has a 0.28 goals-against average.

WKU's last loss was to North Texas, 3-1, in the semifinals of the 2007 Sun Belt.

MERCER TURNAROUND. For a program that struggled for most of the last two decades, Mercer has made a lot of progress. The Bears went 11-7-2 in 2007 to enjoy their first winning season in 13 years and now sit atop the Atlantic Sun standings after six games.

A defense that has allowed only eight goals in 14 games has been a key to the Bears (7-4-3). Central defender Heather Manting has been the glue that has kept the backline together in front of goalie Jean Worts.

Mercer has gotten big contributions from its freshman, especially on the offensive end. First-year player Olivia Tucker leads the Bears with five goals and two assists from her defensive-mid position. Another freshman, Ali Meek (four goals and two assists), is a creative player and deceptive with the ball at her feet.

"It's been a very successful year so far," said Mercer coach Grant Serafy. "I think we have a good blend of leadership mixed with some really good young players who have made significant contributions. Heather Manting and Katheryn Hurst are doing great jobs as co-captains - I think it really all starts with their leadership."

Serafy says recruiting has been key to the turnaround at Mercer, which only had three winning seasons in its first 22 years.

"We've been able to have two of the four recruiting classes since I've been here rank as the best in the conference," added Serafy. "That's certainly been a big part of our success, but then we also had to get the players to buy into the demanding environment that we've created here. That took a long time: took a lot longer than I thought it would. But I think finally the players understand the sacrifices and the discipline that goes into being successful, and I think they have embraced it."

ATLANTIC SUN: Mercer leads the Atlantic Sun, but only six points separate the top nine teams. Other teams with overall winning records:
-- Belmont (8-5-1)
-- Kennesew State (7-4-4)
-- Florida Gulf Coast (7-3-2)



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