Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Climb to No. 1 No Cakewalk for WVU Women's Soccer

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Climb to No. 1 No Cakewalk for WVU Women's Soccer

Article excerpt

Look at the numbers - just the numbers - and it might look like the West Virginia University women's soccer team's path to this point has been an easy one. Undefeated in Big 12 play. A 10-match streak where opponents were held scoreless. Conference champions. No. 1 in every poll in the country. A breeze, right?

Coach Nikki Izzo-Brown and her Mountaineers know the truth. Easy? Anything but. There were plenty of hurdles, plenty of times where the road became rough.

Yet WVU traversed those roads, cleared those hurdles. Now the team sits in an unprecedented spot, hoping it keeps piling up firsts in a season full of them.

West Virginia begins its NCAA tournament quest at 3 p.m. Saturday versus Northern Kentucky at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in Morgantown. The Mountaineers are a No. 1 seed for the first time, and could carry home-field advantage all the way to the national semifinals if they make it there.

Yet what would you have said if someone told you before the season that WVU would have to be without two of its best players for the season's first few games? That three more, including the Mountaineers' regular starting goalkeeper, would be absent for the playoffs?

Fate dealt those cards to West Virginia, and the team keeps winning hand after hand.

"I attribute it all to the character of the individuals and the will of this team, Izzo-Brown said. "At the end of the day, when the whistle blows, they're out there making things happen. One player is always rising to the occasion. And it's not only one or two, there are different players stepping up at different times.

Now there was a good reason WVU went without Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence at the season's start. The two were part of the bronze-medal-winning Canadian national team at the Olympic Games in Brazil.

And there was a good reason that defender Bianca St. …

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