No. 14 Mountaineers close out regular season on the road vs. Texas
Published: Friday, October 26, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 26, 2012 08:10
West Virginia women’s soccer head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown has preached all season about the importance of her team controlling its own destiny.
And when the Mountaineers sealed first place in the Big 12 Conference heading into the final game of the season, Izzo-Brown had one group of team members to thank.
"Let me talk about the senior leadership," Izzo-Brown said. "The seniors’ understanding how important controlling your own destiny (is) was critical for us this year."
One senior Izzo-Brown is looks to see step up this weekend when the Mountaineers travel to Austin, Texas, to take on the Longhorns is midfielder Bri Rodriguez.
Rodriguez has been battling back from an ACL tear she suffered in the Mountaineers’ NCAA tournament game against Virginia Tech in 2012 all season. She has played for West Virginia since the season began, but it was the Mountaineers’ most recent game in which she did the most damage.
"That game against Oklahoma was by far the best game I’ve seen Bri play (this season)," Izzo-Brown said. "Nobody understands what this young woman has been through and how much she has done to get to that point.
"When you battle back from an ACL (tear) in less than a year from when it happened, that kind of rehab and that kind of mentality is huge."
Rodriguez is like a conductor playing the midfield, and the way she connected the backfield to the attacking forwards with such fluidity in her game against the Sooners looked like a masterpiece. And like most masterpieces, it took a while to come together.
"Early on, I kept telling her ‘look, it’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon,’" Izzo-Brown said. "We (have) to keep you healthy. We (have) to get you to the point where your knee can handle all this, and she’s just been amazing."
Izzo-Brown will look for Rodriguez to continue to be amazing as she and the rest of the seniors lead the Mountaineers into a rambunctious stadium against the No. 2 team in the conference. Texas sealed the Mountaineers’ No. 1 spot when it lost to TCU Saturday, and Izzo-Brown knows a rowdy crowd awaits West Virginia upon their arrival.
"I have some people in Texas telling me there is a huge crowd coming," Izzo-Brown said. "We know that Texas draws a lot. That
stadium is going to be rocking."
But, of course, a packed house on the road is nothing new to the Mountaineers and may even seem like a small obstacle after playing seven new conference opponents and refusing to lose a single conference game on their way to the regular season title.
"(The Big 12) knows West Virginia has had success in the past," Izzo-Brown said. "We were going to bring that strong tradition into the Big 12, and I think the Big 12 coaches are happy we’re adding to the league and making us stronger."