The West Virginia women’s soccer team will look to repeat its success this upcoming fall and defend its Big 12 Championship crown.
In just two seasons in the Big 12, the Mountaineers have won three Big 12 trophies: back-to-back regular season titles and one conference tournament.
Led by coach Nikki Izzo-Brown, WVU won its third conference title in four years and appeared in the NCAA Tournament for the 14th straight year.
"One of the reasons I got into coaching is making sure that players accomplish their ultimate goals," she said. "There (was) nothing more satisfying than seeing the girls win a Big 12 Championship title last season. That’s why I’m in it. I like maximizing player development."
But it’s also the norm, she said.
"I always expect us to win conference championships and go as far as we can in the NCAA Tournament," she said. "We’re here to win a national championship and a Big 12 championship every year. That’s always the standard--we have a standard of excellence."
The Mountaineers were led by senior forward Frances Silva and goalkeeper Sara Keane in 2013. Silva and Keane both play professionally now.
Silva graduated fourth in the program record book with 98 career points and 338 career goals. Keane’s 27 career shots rank No. 3 all time.
"Frances and Sara were just unbelievable leaders," Izzo-Brown said. "You can never replace the experiences they had. They both contributed major minutes throughout their career. They always had a desire to make those around them better, and that’s what leaders do. They had a plan and incorporated everyone to make it happen."
But the depth on roster doesn’t have Izzo-Brown and team worried about who can fill their massive shoes. This year’s team only has three seniors and seven incoming freshmen.
"I think Kate Schwindel has always been that goal scorer for us. Kailey Utley and Kelsie Maloney have proven how effective they can be on the field," said Izzo-Brown. "Freshman Amandine Pierre-Louis will be competing with the Canada U20 National Team for World Cup. I think those four can really give significant minutes, and of course we’ll see what the (other) incoming freshmen can bring."
But Izzo-Brown also knows the path to repeat as champs won’t come easy. The Mountaineers may have just lost one conference game last season, but it was against the team Izzo-Brown thinks is one of the toughest to knock off. WVU lost to Texas Tech 2-0 last season for a 7-1 conference record.
"I think Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are going to be super tough," she admitted. "They were so young last year and they’ll be pretty tough. Texas Tech has a few amazing players also. There’s a lot of parody in the Big 12, but I think those two are going to be really hard to beat this year."
The Mountaineers kick their season off August 22 at Penn State.