The West Virginia University women's soccer team entered the season with many question marks related to the team. It was an inexperienced group that was unproven.
Four games into the season WVU pulled off a major accomplishment shutting out No. 1 Stanford. The Mountaineers then faced four straight double overtime games losing one and tying the other three. This inexperienced group suddenly had faced a lot of adversity and managed to withstand it.
West Virginia has not lost a game since August 31. The Mountaineers roared through the Big 12 unbeaten and clinched the Big 12 regular season title last week.
"To be the first team on campus here to win that was just awesome," Goalkeeper Sara Keane said. "It is really exciting for us and really exciting for the program."
"It was pretty exciting for us," Forward Frances Silva said. "Especially to be the first team at WVU to win a Big 12 championship says a lot about our team and what we are going to be able to accomplish."
The team clinched its regular season title away from the pitch. It was a result from another game that locked up the conference championship. The team found out in different ways.
"Most of the team was at the movies when we found out that it happened," Silva laughed. "We kind of went a little crazy for everyone's liking."
"I was actually with my parents at the time," Forward Kate Schwindel said. "We have this group text and this whole time we were all following it and freaking out about it. At dinner, I couldn't put my phone down and got yelled at for it. Once we found out we blew up everyone's phones and were just so excited."
WVU appears to have all the ingredients required to make a postseason run. It starts with a solid goalkeeper in Sara Keane. WVU has held every one of its 17 opponents to two goals or less.
"Sara has been huge for us," Head Coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. "She is making the saves she is supposed to make and then coming up with that big one to keep us in the game. Keane knows that we need her to keep doing her job."
"Sara is amazing," Silva said of Keane. "She does such a
great job for us back there. She makes big saves, not just the ones she has to
make, but the extra ones. She is very calm and controlled back there and keeps
our team in the games."
Keane has the advantage of knowing her offense can pick her up at any time. WVU has outscored its opponents 32-16 this season. That helps to take some of the pressure off of Keane throughout the course of any game.
"I have always made mistakes and I am going to make mistakes in the future," Keane said. "It's nice to know that if I do make one that our offensive line or midfield can cover up for me."
"Versatility is big for us," Silva said. "We have had people in every position score goals. I think every starter except for one has scored a goal. That definitely makes us tougher to defend."
WVU is ranked No. 19 in the Soccer America poll. The Mountaineers will look to improve on that in the upcoming Big 12 tournament. In fact, WVU is leaving Morgantown Thursday for its game against Texas in Austin. The Mountaineers will make the 90 minute drive from Austin to San Antonio after that game where the Big 12 tournament will be played and remain in Texas for potentially a total of 11 days.
West Virginia will meet Texas Friday night in Austin. The game will be televised by the Longhorn Network at 8:30 pm.
The goal is to continue to win and improve their NCAA tournament seed to include possibly a few home games in their quest for a National Title.