MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University women’s soccer team is ready for its encore.
After a memorable debut season in the Big 12 Conference in 2012, the Mountaineers return to the pitch this fall ready to defend their league regular-season crown. Maintaining status quo, though, isn’t the team’s sole drive, as the squad hopes to progress further in the Big 12 and NCAA Championships, too; the Mountaineers bowed out of both tournaments in the first round last season.
WVU will take the first step this weekend, as the team officially opens the 2013 season at No. 4 Penn State in the Penn State Invitational on Friday, Aug. 23, at 7:30 p.m., at Jeffrey Field, in University Park, Pa. The Mountaineers have their sights set on avenging a 2-1 overtime loss to the Nittany Lions in Morgantown last year.
The Mountaineers, 2-0 in exhibition play this fall, also will face Syracuse this weekend. The two teams will meet Sunday in University Park at 2:30 p.m. Challenging Competition
The 2013 West Virginia women’s soccer schedule is a grueling one, facing seven teams that appeared in the 2012 NCAA tournament – Baylor, Central Michigan, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Penn State and Texas Tech.
“The 2013 schedule is challenging, but one that we are excited about," says 18th-year coach Nikki Izzo-Brown, the 2012 Big 12 Coach of the Year. “Our non-conference opponents are highlighted by last year’s national finalists in North Carolina and Penn State. And our conference schedule includes four home games and four road trips to Big 12 schools.”First Time Foes
West Virginia will square off against four new opponents this fall: Duke, North Carolina, Eastern Kentucky and Wright State. In the program’s 17-year existence (heading into 2013), the Mountaineers have faced 93 different teams.
For the second straight year, WVU will face the defending national
champion. The Mountaineers will face North Carolina on Sept. 8 in the Duke Nike Classic.
Last fall, forward Frances Silva
scored in the 83rd minute to propel West Virginia past No. 1-ranked Stanford, 1-0, on Aug. 26 at the Penn State Invitational. The win, the Mountaineers’ first over the nation’s top-ranked team, snapped Stanford’s 64-match regular-season unbeaten streak.Sporting a Target
Fresh off its Big 12 regular-season championship, the team’s third straight conference title, the Mountaineers claimed the top spot in the 2013 Big 12 Preseason Soccer Poll, as voted on by the league’s coaches. WVU received seven first-place votes.
A league-best five Mountaineers also landed on the 2013 Preseason All-Big 12 Soccer Team, as selected by the conference coaches. The five honorees included defender Jess Crowder
, midfielders Kara Blosser
and Ashley Lawrence
, and forwards Kate Schwindel
and Silva. Big 12 Soccer
West Virginia enters its second season as members of the Big 12 Conference. WVU women’s soccer will add to the competiveness of the league, bringing 13 consecutive NCAA appearances on its resume – more than any other league team.
The Big 12 has advanced at least two teams to the second round of the NCAA Championship and at least one squad to the third round in 15 of the league’s 17 seasons.
The Conference finished 62-28-11 against non-conference opponents last season.Big 12 Championship
After being held in San Antonio for 16-straight years, the Big 12 Championship has a new home in Kansas City, Mo., in 2013, and that tourney will be Nov. 6-10. The 2013 Big 12 Soccer Championship will take place at Swope Park. No matches will be played on campus sites.
A year ago, the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds were streamed by the Big 12 Digital Network on Big12Sports.com, and the championship finals were broadcast on FSN.
The top eight teams based on conference results determined by a point system qualify for the Big 12 Championship. A squad gets three points for each conference win and one point for each conference tie.All-Conference Returnees
Izzo-Brown led her team to the regular-season championship to be named Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2012. The conference coach of the year award is the third of Izzo-Brown’s career, having won back-to-back accolades in 2001 and 2002 with the Big East.
Last fall, West Virginia garnered the most total selections with seven. Five All-Big 12 Mountaineers return in 2013, led by Schwindel who was a first-team selection.
Silva was named to the second team and three players landed on the Big 12 All-Newcomer Team: defender Leah Emaus
, Blosser and forward Kelsie Maloney
WVU also boats All-Big East performers in senior goalkeeper Sara Keane
and midfielder Caroline Szwed
, also a senior.Offensive Outlook
The 2013 Mountaineers return 88 percent of their goal scoring from a year ago as underclassmen accounted for 30 of the team’s 34 goals. Twenty of the team’s 34 goals came from the duo of Silva (11) and Schwindel (9).
Twenty two of the team’s 28 assists return – 78 percent of its assist total from 2012. Schwindel leads all returnees with eight helpers.
Nine different Mountaineers on the current roster have scored at least one point in their WVU careers.Defensive Outlook
West Virginia loses two starters along the back line this fall with the departure of seniors Bry McCarthy and Mallory Smith. The two combined for 158 career appearances with 117 starts.
Fortunately, Keane returns after registering 17 shutouts over the past two seasons.
Also returning is center back Emaus and outside back Crowder – both first-time starters a year ago.Spanning the Globe
WVU features student-athletes from Canada and 16 different U.S. states on its 2013 roster. Four players come from Pennsylvania and Virginia, and two from Alabama, New Jersey and West Virginia. Eleven states have one player wearing the Old Gold and Blue.Home Sweet Home
Mountaineer soccer teams have played well in Morgantown throughout the years, putting together a 75-15-11 home record since Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium opened in August 2004.
Last season, WVU posted a 6-3-3 home record, including a 1-0 victory over seventh-ranked Oklahoma State on Sept. 23. Elite Instruction
In 17 seasons, as the only coach in the history of Mountaineer women’s soccer, coach Izzo-Brown has built a one-time infant program into one of the nation’s elite. Entering the 2013 season, she ranks in the Top 25 among NCAA Division I coaches all-time with a .698 winning percentage (includes one year at West Virginia Wesleyan).
Izzo-Brown has secured double-digit wins in each of the past 13 seasons and she has never had a losing season in 18 years as a head coach. Her career record stands at 248-97-36.Helping Kick Cancer
The women’s soccer team raised $15,781 this spring in its effort to help fight breast cancer, pushing its 10-year total to more than $100,000. All of the money raised goes directly to the Betty Puskar Breast Cancer Fund at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.
“We are thrilled to raise a record amount of money this year and put us over the $100,000 mark in money for breast cancer research,” says Izzo-Brown. “Ten years ago we knew we could put forth the effort to raise awareness, and really developed a special relationship with Betty Puskar and the Breast Care Center at WVU. Now, to see the commitment our ladies have given to generating funds for such an important cause, it’s very satisfying as their coach.”
A check presentation to the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center will be held at halftime of one of the home matches this fall.