With the end of the regular season and the impending NCAA Tournament, the West Virginia women’s soccer team has played through a unique season that began in September.
The Mountaineers started their campaign this year in the fall. Being in one of the three conferences to play games this fall, West Virginia played a full Big 12 schedule. However, this schedule included five trips away from home, including two to the state of Texas, two to the state of Oklahoma and then to Iowa State.
“We had to travel five times. Every other weekend we were traveling,” head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “It was a lot. Not that I think TCU was deserving of our conference champion but I was so proud of a lot of the obstacles we had to overcome in the fall and the unknown on top of a travel schedule -- I thought we were incredible.”
In the spring, the Mountaineers knew they wanted to make a statement. After not receiving an automatic bid for winning their conference, the Mountaineers had work to do and wanted to prove to themselves and the country that they are still capable of challenging any team they face.
The Mountaineers played a total of four games this spring. This included three matches against teams ranked inside of the Top 15 at the time of play.
The Mountaineers started their spring campaign by beating Saint Joseph’s, winning 3-1. Junior Alina Stahl scored twice and got the team off to a strong start to 2021.
The Mountaineers then hosted No. 5 Duke in a match the Mountaineers thought would show the country where they are in comparison to some of the top teams in the NCAA. The Mountaineers prevailed, winning 3-2.
“I do think that this game is going to affect seeding,” Izzo-Brown said after the game. “As much as this is uncharted territory for me, I know that this type of win really puts us on the map because everyone knows the quality of Duke.”
After Duke, the Mountaineers faced another highly ranked opponent in two straight matches, playing a home-and-home series against Virginia.
In the first meeting, the Mountaineers were able to beat then-No. 10 Virginia 1-0, scoring a goal in the 86th minute to get the win. In the second game, the Mountaineers fought hard on the road and earned a draw, 1-1, with Virginia being ranked No. 12 at the time. The day was highlighted by sophomore goalkeeper Kayza Massey’s career day, as she finished with five saves.
"We needed to play teams like Virginia to get ready for the NCAA Tournament,” Izzo-Brown said. “This is only going to make us better.”
In those final three matches of the season, the Mountaineers saw a high level of production from junior Isabella Sibley. In those three matches, Sibley scored three goals, including the lone goals in both of the matches against Virginia.
“We talk a lot as a team about versatility and being a great teammate and having that open mindedness, and I can’t speak enough to Sibley about how valuable she has been to this program and just the way she works in every position,” Izzo-Brown said.
As for what is next for the Mountaineers, they will now wait to see who they will play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers were able to reach the 10-win mark for the 21st season in a row and hope that this spring has put them in a place to be able to make a deep run in this year’s tournament.
The Mountaineers will find out their tournament positioning on April 19 with the NCAA Tournament scheduled to take place in North Carolina. The first round is scheduled for April 27-28.