WVU Women’s Soccer Takes Big 12 Championship
An advantageous bounce, brute senior strength and a stout defensive effort put the No. 14-ranked West Virginia University women’s soccer team back in familiar territory, as the second-seeded Mountaineers won the 2018 Big 12 Soccer Championship title with a 3-0 win over No. 9-ranked Baylor Sunday afternoon at Swope Soccer Village.
The title is the Mountaineers’ ninth since joining the Big 12 Conference in 2012 and first since winning the tournament crown in 2016. WVU has earned four Big 12 Championship Tournament titles. Including their years in the Big East Conference, the Mountaineers’ conference title count now stands at 17.
The shutout, WVU’s 11th of the season, halts BU’s scoring streak at 21 matches and the Bears’ win streak at 10.
“Today was all about effort,” 23-year coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “This team had unfinished business, and we knew we would face teams from the nation’s best RPI conference. We’ve been talking all year about senior leadership, and they were just incredible.
“That Baylor team is lethal, and they’re going to do great things in the NCAA Tournament. To hold them to zero goals speaks volumes of our defensive mindset, our backline and (goalkeeper) Rylee Foster.”
With the win, the Mountaineers (14-4-3, 7-2) secure the Big 12 Conference’s automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Tournament. WVU will learn its tournament path tomorrow, when the NCAA Selection Show streams at NCAA.com at 4:30 p.m.
“We’re going to enjoy today,” said Izzo-Brown. “There’s always lessons learned, and the kids earned this today. But, we’ll break-down tape and get ready for the NCAA Tournament.”
Today’s victory avenges the Mountaineers’ earlier defeat to the Bears (16-5, 8-1), a 1-0 (OT) loss on Oct. 5 at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. BU had won the last two conference titles, including the 2017 championship crown and this year’s regular-season championship.
Riding a 1-0 second-half lead following an own goal in the 36th minute, the Mountaineers found their insurance goal off the foot of senior defender Amanda Saymon. Senior forward Sh’Nia Gordon worked the ball upfield before crossing high to freshman defender Jordan Brewster. Her shot from the top of the 18 was stopped at the line by BU’s Jennifer Wandt. Standing in the right position, Saymon pounced on the rebound and buried her shot to the far-left post for her first career goal.
Just eight minutes later, sophomore forward Lauren Segalla iced the victory with a goal in the 85th minute. On the counter, Gordon sent the ball long. Senior midfielder Nadya Gill caught up with it and quickly crossed into the box to Segalla, who turned and slotted her shot to the left post.
“I’m so proud that we found the finishes,” Izzo-Brown added. “I think we hit the bars three or four different times. I was so happy Amanda finished, and then obviously Lauren.”
The Mountaineers outscored their opponents 7-0 at the 2018 Big 12 Soccer Championship.
WVU finished with a 19-7 edge in shots, placing five on-goal. The Mountaineers also earned seven corner kicks and held BU to just one shot on-goal and one corner kicks.
Gordon, the Big 12 Championship Most Outstanding Offensive Player, finished with a game-high five shots. She finished with five points (2 G, 1 A) this week.
Junior Rylee Foster earned credit for the clean sheet, her 10th of the season.
Senior defender Easther Mayi Kith was named the Big 12 Championship Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
Six Mountaineers were named to the Big 12 All-Tournament Team: Gordon, Mayi Kith, Foster, Gill, Segalla and defender Bianca St. Georges.
The Mountaineers capitalized on a perfect chance in the 36th minute. After a constant push into BU’s final third, sophomore midfielder Grace Smith received the ball high of the box from classmate Stefany Ferrer-vanGinkel. She sent an immediate pass wide to Gordon, who pushed inside the box before sending a cross to a diving Segalla in front of the goal line. BU defender Sarah Norman attempted to clear the ball, but instead she directed it to the near-left post for a Mountaineer advantage.
The own goal is the Mountaineers first of the season.
Chances were far and few between in the first half, and with the exception of the own goal, neither team registered a shot on-frame.
Freshman midfielder Addison Clark earned WVU’s first chance in the ninth minute, running up on a bouncing ball wide of the penalty line, but her shot went wide of the left post.
Senior forward Hannah Abraham tried to create her own chance in the 20th minute, heading a toed pass from Segalla inside the box. Her second header nearly had enough power to make it to the goal line, but Wandt halted the push, catching the ball out of the air.
Just before the Mountaineers snatched the lead, senior midfielder Grace Cutlerearned a shot at the top of the box; her side-footed shot was blocked away.
Prior to earning the first of two insurance goals, the Mountaineers nearly snagged their second goal in the 65th minute. Abraham sent a shot to the far-right post that hit the wood and bounced high to Clark. She immediately sent a shot from the top of the box, but it pinged off the crossbar.
With the win, WVU improves to 6-1-1 all-time against the Bears, 13-2-2 at the Big 12 Soccer Championship and 4-0 in Big 12 Soccer Championship finals.