The West Virginia women's soccer team came up short in their quest for the first women's team championship in school history, falling to USC 3-1 in the Women's College Cup Final in San Jose, California. Ultimately, the Trojans able to take advantage of their opportunities better than the Mountaineers.
WVU fell behind on a first-minute goal by Morgan Andrews. The Mountaineers leveled the match in the 66th minute with a long strike by Ashley Lawrence. Despite conceding much of the possession and being outshot 21-6, Katie Johnson was able to capitalize on two half chances and turn them into two goals.
WVU’s appearance in the championship game also marked the first time the Big 12 Conference was represented in the final.
The match could not have stated on a worse note for WVU. USC took opening kickoff down into WVU territory, wins corner kick. The corner was not cleared well enough and USC put it right back in. The service was deflected home by Morgan Andrews for a 1-0 lead.
WVU struggled to deal with speed of USC and hold possession, but were able to attack down right side.
Around the 20th minute, WVU was able to finally find its rhythm in the match. The Mountaineers created some golden opportunities to level the score using the width of the field to their advantage.
Sh’Nia Gordon was able to sprint toward goal and rifle a shot to the near post, but Sammy Jo Prudhomme parried the ball out for a corner. The corner kick fell to Gordon, but she couldn’t steer it toward goal.
WVU flooded numbers forward as the first half drew to a close. The Mountaineers pressured the USC defense, but it was not broken.
The final chance of the half fell to Gordon, but her backheel attempt was easily collected by Prudhomme.
WVU started the second half in a frantic manner, perhaps a bit too fantic. The Mountaineers were quick to send balls forward. The Mountaineers had all the pressure and attacking chances to start the second half, but impatience led the Mountaineers to take lesser-quality shots.
Finally, the Mountaineers drew level in the 66th minute. Lawrence took a ball and evaded a defender to the top of the USC penalty area. She saw an opening and hit a low, skipping shot to the near post and past Prudhomme.
USC quickly regained their composure and started to find way to pass through the WVU midfield. Katie Johnson was, for the most part, the only player up top for USC. Her work rate was rewarded with the game-winner in the 75th minute.
Leah Pruitt took advantage of a misplay by Easther Mayi Kith. Buchanan came over to cover, but Leah Pruitt passed the ball to a wide-open Johnson for the goal.
After the goal, Kadeisha Buchanan moved up top, and WVU played in a 3-4-3 formation. This created a great short-range effort for Heather Kaleohi, but that was saved by Prudhomme.
In the final 10 minutes, Amandine Pierre-Louis took two long-range efforts but both were almost directly at the goalkeeper. Credit Prudhomme for securing the ball without a rebound for the Mountaineers to pounce on.
USC sealed the deal in the 87th minute. WVU had nine players forward pressuring goal. A turnover led to a long ball to Johnson. She took two touches toward goal and lifted it past Rylee Foster.
Despite the loss, this was by far the most successful season in WVU women’s soccer program history. The Mountaineers amassed 23 wins, were ranked first for much of the season and had a 12-game goalless streak and 17-game unbeaten streak in the season.
Nikki Izzo-Brown’s 21st season in charge, the only head coach the program has ever known, was a giant step for WVU women’s athletics. She is the first women’s team coach to guide her team to a national championship game.