Jason Neidell, the only head coach in WKU women's soccer history, enters his 17th season at the helm of WKU's soccer program in 2017. Neidell has guided the Lady Toppers program since its inception in 2001 and continues to bring the program more recognition on the national stage.
In 2016, WKU enjoyed its finest season since joining Conference USA, posting a 12-6-1 record and finishing third overall in the conference standings. Freshman Chandler Backes became just the fifth player in program history with double-digit goals in one season, and the Lady Toppers surrendered just 13 goals in 19 matches, the second-fewest allowed in a single season in program history. After being selected eighth in the preseason coaches' poll, Neidell earned C-USA Coach of the Year accolades for piloting the Lady Toppers to their third-place finish.
WKU also set a new C-USA record during a six-week stretch during the 2016 season, earning six consecutive Player of the Week awards under Neidell's watch. That streak established a new record as the longest in conference history.
Fifteen of Neidell's 16 teams have recorded winning records. Of those 15 teams, 13 have won at least 10 matches. Neidell has led WKU to at least eight wins in 11 straight seasons, including Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship appearances in 2008, 2011 and 2013. WKU finished in the top half of conference standings (Sun Belt and Conference USA) during each of Neidell's first 14 seasons.
He guided the program to its first Sun Belt Conference regular season title in 2007 and led WKU to its second conference title during the 2013 season. Neidell was named the Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year during each of his championship seasons. In the past nine seasons, Neidell's Lady Toppers reached the championship game of the conference tournament three times. In his 16 seasons, Neidell has led the Lady Toppers to a 180-101-34 record. The 2009 team set a school record for conference victories with nine and he led the 2008 squad to the most victories in program history, finishing 15-2-4.
In addition, 50 student-athletes have earned all-conference honors, with 22 named to the league's all-tournament team. Excelling in the classroom is also important to Neidell and the Lady Toppers, and 19 players have been named Academic All-District a total of 38 times, while he has had nine Conference USA All-Academic recipients in the past three seasons under his watch. WKU has had five Academic All-Americans under Neidell.
In 2009, the Lady Toppers set a school record with nine Sun Belt Conference wins and finished tied for second in the conference standings. WKU captured the University of Kentucky Tournament championship with a win over Marshall and a tie against Kentucky, and WKU earned major Sun Belt Conference wins over North Texas and Middle Tennessee. Neidell picked up his 100th career victory on October 4, 2009, at Troy, needing just 167 games to reach the milestone. Also in 2009, Kellie Walker set the new single-season and career assists records and was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, and six Lady Toppers were named to All-Sun Belt Conference teams.
Under Neidell's guidance the 2008 squad finished the season with a record of 15-2-4, the best record in school history. The Lady Toppers finished with a 7-1-3 mark in SBC play, good for third in the conference. Following the season, four players were named to the All-Sun Belt Conference First Team. Rachel Friedman and reigning SBC Player of the Year Morgan Thomas were recognized for their efforts on the defensive side of the ball, and Kellie Walker's offensive output earned her a spot on the team.
Freshman goalkeeper Libby Stout had one of the finest seasons in WKU soccer history in 2008. She was named the program's first-ever freshman All-American, as well as getting a nod on the All-SBC First Team. Stout was tremendous in goal for the Lady Toppers, allowing just nine goals the entire season. She recorded 14 shutouts in 20 matches on the season, which is a school and conference record. Her save percentage of 0.924 was second-highest in the nation, and her goals-against average of 0.426 was good for fourth-best in the country. Stout worked back-to-back shutout matches in the SBC Tournament to help the Lady Toppers reach the tournament finals for the first time in program history.
Neidell earned SBC Coach of the Year honors for leading the 2007 team to a SBC regular-season championship and a 14-3-3 overall record. Newcomers Mallory Outerbridge - the first international player for the Lady Toppers - and Amanda Buechel helped lead the squad to the top spot in the SBC. Outerbridge tied Kristin Cocchiarella for the team's lead in goals (8), while Buechel and Alicia Dalby each recorded hat-tricks on the year. Meredith Goodson led the league as the top goalkeeper, stopping 87 shots and allowing only 14 goals for a 0.73 goals-against average.
In 2001 Neidell was named the First-Year Program Coach of the Year by Soccer Buzz after WKU's 14-5 finish in its inaugural season. The 2002 squad produced the first all-Sun Belt picks in school history, as three players were named to the second team.
Neidell has made a name for himself on the international coaching scene, as well as in collegiate coaching. He piloted the United States open squad to a gold medal in the 2009 Maccabiah World Games in Israel. His team, which included former Lady Topper Catie Chase, defeated the host Israeli team 4-0 in the finals to earn the gold. In January 2004 he guided the United States junior national teams at the Pan American Maccabiah Games in Santiago, Chile, where his Under-17 club captured the gold medal and the Under-20 team brought home the silver. He also coached the junior national team in the 2005 World Maccabiah Games and the open national squad at the 2008 Maccabiah Games in Argentina.
A 1994 graduate of Yale, Neidell helped lead the Bulldogs to a NCAA Final Eight appearance and the New England and Ivy League titles in 1991. He was an Academic All-Ivy League selection in 1993 and won the school's Walter Leeman Award, presented to the student-athlete who best exemplifies leadership, sportsmanship and team play.
After graduation, Neidell played professionally for two seasons with the Tulsa Roughnecks of the United States Professional Soccer League, and one season with the Harrisburg Heat of the National Professional Soccer League. An injury with the Heat led him into the coaching ranks. From 1996-98 he served as a graduate assistant coach at the University of Tulsa. He earned his bachelor's degree in history from Yale and a master's degree in Public Administration from WKU. He and his wife, Kara, were married on May 9, 2009, and welcomed their daughter Quinn to the world in February 2013.