Nikki Izzo-Brown recently returned from a trip to France where she watched some of her former players compete in their sport’s highest stage: the FIFA Women’s World Cup. While none were able to bring it home, their participation and the professional signings that followed were a testament to the type of program that Izzo-Brown has built at West Virginia.
“We can help players achieve their goals and become professional players,” she said. “You know, these signings aren’t just little clubs. I’m just super excited that their hard work is paying off.”
While these alumnae are getting checks for their play on the field, they all started off as freshmen at WVU — and with 12 on this year’s roster, Izzo-Brown has more freshmen on her squad than usual. Having lost most their top scorers from 2019, the 11th-ranked Mountaineers will have to look to these newcomers for production.
“You know, every year is a rebuilding year, but this is probably our biggest rebuilding year,” Izzo-Brown explained. “And we do have high expectations from young players and that’s hard sometimes, but it’s also a privilege and that pressure — I know that they sign to come to West Virginia for that opportunity.”
Of the Mountaineers’ top six point-getters, only two of them will return in 2019. This will force Izzo-Brown to diversify her attack, and she hopes to generate offense from across the squad.
“My hope is that you can’t prepare for West Virginia and just shut down a Michaela [Abam] or a Bianca [St. Georges],” she said. “But I think there are some upperclassmen that will step up, and I think Lauren [Segalla] right now has the most experience, and our hope is that she finds the back of the net for us.”
The Mountaineers do find some grace in arguably the most position on the pitch in goalkeeper Rylee Foster, a senior heading into her fourth season as starter.
“I think everyone comes here and commits here to win championships, and there is no other expectation but to do so,” Foster said. “Just because you have a young roster, our goals are still going to be the same. We want to win championships, we want to win games, and we want to go to the NCAA Tournament.”
Izzo-Brown says she is leaning on Foster to give leadership to her team.
“Rylee experienced the NCAA final game,” Izzo-Brown said, “so we are going to rely heavily on her experience and her leadership especially with the young back line. I think we graduated three from that back line last year.”
For Foster, her job is all about giving back to the team to make the Mountaineers better.
“I’ve been mentored through the program for my last three years under great leaders,” Foster said. “But I think right now, I’m ready to take control, take advantage of my situation here and mentor my…freshman lines, whatever I can do to make them better, I have a lot of experience and wisdom to share with them, it’s my job to do that.”