WKU Soccer: Filling the void left by four-year starter Leone

The WKU Women’s Soccer team kicks off their season on Friday evening with a trip to in-state foe Murray State. While the Lady Toppers have a large group of returning players, one position that has a void is goalkeeper following the departure of four-year starter Allison Leone. With Leone gone, it’s time for a new regime to mind the net, a regime that starts with a competition for the starting job between true freshman Bailee Witt and redshirt-junior Anne-Marie Ulliac.

"We’re kind of hitting the reset button right now," said WKU goalkeepers coach Will Beddingfield. "It’s going to be fun to see what happens."

In any sport, the old saying goes that defense wins championships. In soccer, defense starts with solidarity at the goalkeeper position. Leone gave that to the Lady Tops after starting every game during her career on the Hill. Filling the cleats left by her won’t be an easy task for either Witt or Ulliac, but they’re talented enough to be successful.

"Both of them have very good athleticism," Beddingfield said. "They’re both very technical goalkeepers. Which at this level, those are two huge attributes to have."

While this might be the first time Witt and Ulliac are competing for a starting job on the same team, they’ve already had prior experience playing alongside each other before being reunited at WKU.

"We used to train together at a camp so I’ve known [Ulliac] for awhile," said Witt. "It’s a lot of fun just getting to know her better."

Witt might be one of the fresh faces on the team, but it’s the opposite for Ulliac. After transferring from Adelphi University, a small private school in New York, Ulliac sat out last season to fulfill NCAA transfer requirements. Ulliac used that time on the sideline to her advantage, though, watching Leone and learning how to replicate the type of leadership that her predecessor displayed during her time between the posts. And that’s changed her mindset heading into this season, she said.

"This year is still just learning, getting better, working at little details," Ulliac said. "But when it comes time to the scrimmages it’s really a lot more intense because it’s not like I’m just practicing. This year I’m really going for it."

Ulliac might have the college experience, but Witt isn’t short on confidence heading into her first season as a Lady Top.

"I was brought here for a reason," said Witt. "I just think I need to focus on that instead of getting in my own head."

Each goalkeeper brings their own unique flair to the position. With that in mind, coach Beddingfield feels assured that the defense, and the team as a whole, will be just find with either Witt or Ulliac patrolling the 18-yard box.

"We’re happy with the foundation they have and things like that," he said. "That’s what we’re looking for."