MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (Aug. 19, 2021) – The No.12-ranked West Virginia University women’s soccer team opened the 2021 campaign with a 4-0 victory over Buffalo on Thursday, at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in Morgantown.
Kicking off the 2021-22 WVU Athletics season, the Mountaineers (1-0-0, 0-0-0 Big 12) found the back of the net four times, with a pair of newcomers scoring their first career goals for WVU. Junior defender Julianne Vallerand, redshirt senior forward Lauren Segalla, junior midfielder Maya McCutcheon and freshman forward Rhea Kijowski added a goal apiece to give West Virginia the dominant, season-opening win. Vallerand’s 25th-minute strike was credited as the game winner, the third of her career.
“The pandemic has been tough on everybody, so to have the chance for everyone to get out here and enjoy a good soccer game and a good night was really exciting,” coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “We loved having our fans back and getting them back in the stands in a safe atmosphere was so awesome.”
The two teams were silent mid-way through the first half, with just a pair of shots from WVU in the first 20 minutes. The Mountaineers soon found their spark though, as sophomore midfielder Lilly McCarthy sent a long ball from the midline over to freshman forward Dilary Heredia-Beltran. She split the legs of a UB defender and found Vallerand inside the box, who squared up and tapped it in.
Just minutes later WVU went up by a pair at the 30:34 mark. Redshirt junior defender Mackenzie Aunkst dribbled inside the 18-yard box and toward the end line to serve a cross to Segalla, where she back-heeled it right past the Bulls’ keeper. West Virginia took the two-goal lead into the locker room, after the Mountaineer defense allowed Buffalo just one shot through the first 45 minutes.
Out of the break, a pair of newcomers made a name for themselves in their debuts in Gold and Blue. McCutcheon was the first newcomer to score, as she took a pass from Heredia-Beltran at the top of the 18 and didn’t look back. From there, she fought off two Buffalo defenders and sent a long shot into the top left corner, over the outstretched arms of the UB goalie.
A pair of Mountaineer freshmen put the icing on the cake for WVU in the 87th minute, as forward/midfielder Leah Sparacio sent a cross from the end line and found Kijowski inside the box, who knocked it in for West Virginia’s fourth a final score of the night.
The Mountaineers finished the contest with 11 shots, including five on goal, while Vallerand led the squad with three shots. Junior goalkeeper Kayza Massey and senior keeper Maddie McCarthy split the night’s net minding duties, tallying a save apiece. WVU held Buffalo to just six shots in the contest.
The West Virginia defense opened the year with a clean sheet against the Bulls, doing so in the season opener for the third straight campaign. Six newcomers recorded their first game action in a Mountaineer uniform on Thursday, including McCutcheon, Heredia-Beltran, Kijowski, Sparacio, freshman defender Annika Leslie and freshman midfielder Brooke Brown.
Thursday’s contest also marked the start of West Virginia’s 26th season of competition. Izzo-Brown, the program’s only head coach, has led the Mountaineers to an all-time mark of 363-122-56.
Up next, the Mountaineers conclude their two-game, opening weekend with a top-15 matchup at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. No. 4 Virginia visits Morgantown on Sunday, Aug. 22, with kick tabbed for 2 p.m. ET.