Underclassmen playing big role early for WVU
Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 01:09
After losing a big senior class from a season ago, the No. 24 women’s soccer team featured a lot of young, unproven talent.
Of the 28 players on the Mountaineers’ roster, 20 are either freshmen or sophomores.
Due to injuries and other circumstances, WVU head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown has been forced to play a lot of those newcomers early on this season.
"Some of them came in and had to step into such a big role so quickly," said sophomore midfielder Ali Connelly. "But they’ve adjusted well."
Izzo-Brown has credited the job the upperclassmen have done to help the younger players adjust to playing significant roles so quickly.
"The team has done a great job embracing them and making sure they know that they’re expected to do," Izzo-Brown said. "Our seniors have done a great job not drawing a line between seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen."
Freshman forward Kailey Utley showed her worth in West Virginia’s game against Western Carolina, and built a lead for the Mountaineers after scoring from 15 yards out. She then assisted sophomore forward Kate Schwindel on a game-winning goal late in the second half.
Another freshman forward, Kelsie Maloney started at the beginning of the season after recuperating from a hamstring injury that sidelined her for a few weeks before the
Mountaineers’ game against Penn State last week.
Maloney was drawn to the West Virginia soccer program by the familial atmosphere.
"Everyone supports the sports teams," Maloney said. "Nikki (Izzo-Brown) and all the coaching staff definitely played a role in my decision."
Izzo-Brown said it’s great to see the freshmen and sophomores step into bigger roles so early in their careers.
"All the freshmen are gaining experience," she said. "They have to be ready to grow, and every part of their journey here is important."
The team believes being young is an advantage.
"There are two ways you can look at it," Izzo-Brown said. "It’s a disadvantage they don’t have as much experience, but it also benefits them by not knowing what the pressure is or not knowing how good a team is until playing them."
Izzo-Brown has given the newcomers confidence and responsibility.
"This team is motivated to win. We are young, so our preparation has to be a little bit different but there is a lot of character in this team, and they want to win," she said.