MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–In recent years, the West Virginia University women’s soccer team is used to success and last season was no different despite head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown having a young team.
Last season the Mountaineers replaced seven starters from the 2018 squad that posted a 15-4-4 record. However, that didn’t stop WVU from going to the Sweet 16 and finishing with a 12-8-2 record.
All but four of last season’s members return for the upcoming season but Covid-19 has put a damper on the team’s growth. Spring is a big time of the year for Izzo-Brown’s squad and is detrimental for their growth.
This spring and summer included some big things for WVU, including key scrimmages and a European Tour.
“This was such a big spring and I think for us to understand where they were at, to get those five competitions, to play the high level they were going to play,” Izzo-Brown said. “We were even supposed to go on a foreign tour to Northern Italy. It was really a disappointing time but what we’ve been doing and the only thing the NCAA has allowed us to do is break down film. All of us coaches, we’ve been breaking down film and really showing the tactics and the expectation and showing different athletes in their movements so they’re having a really good understanding just with film. I’m zooming, zooming, zooming and so are these athletes. I’m just so thankful that they are so open minded to learning and watching film and doing the learning that way. Because that’s the best teacher is getting out there and doing it but now, I guess it’s the next one we’re embracing is just seeing it.”
Developing her players is one of seasoned coach’s favorite things.
“I just love developing my players and when you are in the fall season it’s about developing our system of play and dealing with opposing teams’ system of play,” she said. “Our spring season is a lot about our team concept but individual concept. I really miss maximizing my athletes’ potential and developing them. That’s what really motivates me as a coach to have no regrets when they graduate. I really miss that aspect because we have so much more time to spend with that.”
One of the Mountaineers’ biggest losses from last year’s team was goalkeeper Rylee Foster. As a senior the Cambridge, Ontario native appeared in 26 games, where she had 87 saves and posting a .077 save percentage.
Foster had 11 of WVU’s 12 wins.
Sophomore Kayza Massey is the only returning goalkeeper so that was a major area of focus in recruiting.
And the Mountaineers picked up a gem in freshman Katie Nester, an all-state goalie from Charleston Catholic (W.Va.) High School and Jessica Kasacek, a goalie from Canterbury, Connecticut.
“Let’s talk goalkeeping,” Izzo-Brown said. “We definitely had a big need. You guys know losing Riley, we only had one other goalkeeper so that was first and foremost one of our biggest gets and making sure as a staff that we really put ourselves in a good position to have goalkeeping intact and we feel with Jess having coming from Connecticut and the experience she’s had at that high level is definitely a great opportunity for us, especially in that position. Then of course it’s always so important to me to have kids from our state. Emily Charles has not only got it done one the playing field but she’s an incredible student and both of them are going to be great representation of our team, our athletic department, our university. I expect big things out of them and I’m super excited.”
WVU also picked up Boston College transfer Maddie Murphy, who has two years of eligibility remaining.
With college athletic facilities opening soon, it is hopeful the youthful Mountaineers can make up for lost time.
Cover Photo Credit: WVU Sports