This weekend, the No. 1 seeded WVU women’s soccer team begins the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship tournament. The Mountaineers will host Northern Kentucky on Saturday, November 12, at 3 p.m., at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium, in Morgantown.
Head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown secured the first NCAA No. 1 seed for the program she has built from the ground up. Now, she looks to take the team to its best finish ever.
This season has been narrated by a strong defensive effort in every game, conceding no more than two goals in a single game. After 10 conference games without surrendering a goal, WVU found themselves down 0-2 at the half of the Big 12 Soccer Championship final. The Mountaineers ended up winning 3-2 in overtime, proving they are also offensively proficient.
This was the third time WVU has won both the Big 12 regular season and tournament championship, but the job is not yet done.
Last season, WVU reached the Elite Eight before falling to eventual national champions, Penn State. This season, with a No. 1 seed, the Mountaineers should have a less tumultuous route to the Women’s College Cup.
That said, many strong foes await. The Mountaineers have a potential second-round matchup with Ohio State, could meet No. 4 seed UCLA in the Sweet 16, and would have to take on either Duke or Notre Dame in the Elite Eight. WVU defeated Ohio State 2-1 at home and Duke 3-1, in Durham, N.C., earlier this year.
To navigate the NCAA tournament, Izzo-Brown will surely rely on the experience of midfielder Ashley Lawrence and defender Kadeisha Buchanan. However, young players like freshman goalkeeper Rylee Foster and sophomore forward S-Nia Gordon have shined this season.
Second- and third-round matches will be played on Friday, November 18 and Sunday, November 20. The Elite Eight matches will be on November 25 or 26.
The 2016 Women’s College Cup will be hosted on Friday, December 2 and Sunday, December 4 at Avaya Stadium, in San Jose, California. The stadium is the newest soccer-specific stadium in the United States and is home to MLS side San Jose Earthquakes.
WVUwill have home-field advantage through the Elite Eight, as the top seed in each matchup has hosting rights.
In WVU’s half of the bracket are North Carolina, Clemson and South Carolina. The Mountaineers downed Clemson 1-0 in August. South Carolina was the favorite of the SEC but lost in the semifinals of the SEC Women’s Soccer Championship. North Carolina lost to Florida State in the final of the ACC Women’s Soccer Championship. Those teams are the favorite to advance to the College Cup in December.
Overall, WVU is 19-1-1 on the season. They opened the season with a draw in a rematch with Penn State. Their lone loss was against Georgetown in September. Currently, the Mountaineers are riding a 12-game winning streak.