West Virginia had decisive advantages in every statistical category in its NCAA second round match-up against Rice in the NCAA Womens’ Soccer Championship, except the one that counts. The Owls converted a penalty kick in the 74th minute to take a 1-0 win over the Mountaineers at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina, on Saturday.
Rice’s goal came off a penalty kick resulting from a collision between Owl Izzy McBride and WVU keeper Kayza Massey. Massey got off the line a bit late on a high ball into the box, and after evaluating the results of the contact for a few moments, a foul was called on Massey. Rice’s Delaney Schultz converted the penalty kick into the lower left corner for the 1-0 lead, and that score stood up for the win.
Rice managed only one shot — that one on goal — and three corner kicks in the game. WVU had 20 shots, with six on target, but all were saved by Owl keeper Bella Killgore. West Virginia also tallied seven corner kicks that it could not convert on.
“We had 20 shots. [We] hit the crossbar,” WVU head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown observed. “We had an open net we missed. That the tough part of being a soccer coach — you can dominate all the statistics and still not win.”
The theme of the game was set early on. After a couple of minutes of possession in the West Virginia end by the Owls, the Mountaineers established control for most of the first half. WVU got away nine shots (two on goal) and three corner kicks in the opening half, but the packed-in Owl defense prevented a score. Rice also recorded a trio of corners, but had just one opportunity in the Mountaineer box which was quickly turned away.
“They definitely disrupted us,” Izzo-Brown admitted. “(They were) dropping everybody around the 18 and really defending 20 (yards) and in. We were having to find different spaces than we would normally have. We had our chances, but you have to give credit to Rice.
That pattern continued in the second half, as Rice’s defense allowed WVU to move the ball into their half consistently, but denied them the final connection they needed to find the goal. A final free kick by WVU with nine seconds to play was first deflected, then gobbled up by Killgore to end the game.
Up next, Rice (14-2-1) faces the winner of Virginia and 12th-seeded BYU on Thursday, May 6 in the third round. That game kicked at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Owls, winless in their four previous appearances in the NCAAs, are now 2-0 in this year’s event.
West Virginia finished the season at 10-3-1, and is now 23-19-5 all-time in the NCAAs.
“You don’t want to have one game define what you did all year,” Izzo-Brown summed up. “I am so proud of the way we sacrificed and worked hard every day. This game didn’t go our way, but there’s no team I’d rather coach.”