The No. 8-ranked and second-seeded West Virginia University women’s soccer team set a program NCAA Tournament goal record and rolled to a 6-0, opening-round win over Radford this evening at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
Tonight’s win, the Mountaineers’ (15-4-3, 7-2) fourth straight, pushes WVU into the NCAA Tournament Second Round for the fourth consecutive season and the 13th time in program history.
The Mountaineers will play host to Wake Forest in the second of two second-round matches at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium on Friday, Nov. 16. No. 18-ranked and third-seeded South Carolina will kick against No. 14-ranked Penn State in the first match, and the winners will meet on Sunday, Nov. 18, also at Dick Dlesk Stadium. All start times will be announced later this weekend.
Today’s contest was never in question, as sophomore forward Lauren Segalla notched the game-winner 9:16 into the match, and senior forward Sh’Nia Gordon capitalized on confusion and added the first of five insurance goals just two minutes later.
“I’ve been leaning on seniors all year, and this was an incredible opportunity for a lot of our seniors to step-up tonight and to continue our shut-out (streak) against an excellent Radford team,” Mountaineer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “It wasn’t easy for us, but we were able to find the back of the net. A lot of that is attributed to the focus and hard work of our seniors.”
The Mountaineers’ goal output is a season high and bests their previous tournament record of five goals, tallied in a 5-2 victory over Loyola Marymount in the third round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
WVU last scored six or more goals in a 6-0 win over Kansas on Oct. 16, 2015.
Not to be outdone, the Mountaineers’ defensive effort was just as impressive, as WVU held the Highlanders (16-3-1, 9-1 Big South) to just two shots, both in the first half and neither on-frame. Tonight marked the first game all season Radford was shut out, and the Highlanders became the fifth team this season to not place a shot on-goal against the Mountaineer backline.
The Mountaineers’ shutout is their fourth straight and 12th of the season. Junior Rylee Foster played all 90 minutes in net for her 11th clean sheet of the year. WVU has posted a shutout in 10 of its last 15 NCAA Tournament matches.
“It’s been an incredible journey for our backline and Rylee,” Izzo-Brown said. “It’s all about how we defend as a unit, and everyone is buying into our defensive mindset. I know the midfield has been especially focused on that and understanding.
“Again, it’s all about huge senior leadership, and it paid tonight against a prolific attack like Radford’s.”
WVU also denied Radford a corner kick, marking the fourth time this year the Mountaineers did not allow an opponent chance.
The Mountaineers finished with 38 shots, placing a season-high 17 on-frame, the fourth-best mark in program history. Radford’s Courtenay Kaplan and Lexi Dean split time in net, with Kaplan making four first-half saves and Dean stopping seven in the second half.
Fourteen different Mountaineers registered a shot tonight, and senior forward Hannah Abraham paced the field with a career-high six.
“There’s so much confidence and parity,” Izzo-Brown said of her team’s attack. “It’s never easy to scout us because it may come from different directions. It’s a great opportunity for us to lean on different people – we have different ways to find the back of the net.”
Segalla’s goal was her third game-winner of the season, as she connected on a ball from senior midfielder Nadya Gill, burying her shot from inside the box to the far-right post.
Gill has now tallied at least one assist in each of the Mountaineers’ last four matches.
Gordon scored her team-best eighth goal of the season in the 12th minute, connecting on a cross from Abraham at the far-right post.
Gordon now shows a team-best 18 points (8 G, 2 A) on the year.
Senior defender Bianca St. Georges put WVU ahead 3-0 in the 59th minute with her fifth penalty kick of the year. Gill drew the opportunity, as she was pulled down by a Radford defender just high of the penalty line. St. Georges connected on the chance and moved to a perfect 5-for-5 on the year.
A set piece provided the spark for the Mountaineers’ fourth goal. Situated just over the midfield line, senior defender Vanessa Flores sent the ball into the box, where sophomore midfielder Stefany Ferrer-vanGinkel came across the line and headed the ball toward the near-right post for her sixth goal of the season.
A pair of career-first goals capped the Mountaineers’ scoring today. Senior midfielder Patricia Fernandez notched the first, heading home a cross from freshman defender Jordan Brewster in the 84th minute. Just over three minutes later, sophomore midfielder Grace Smith scored on a header off a Brewster free kick.
Brewster’s two-assist performance is the first of her career.
Sixteen different Mountaineers have accounted for WVU’s 44 goals this season.
With the win, WVU improves to 3-0 all-time against Radford. The Mountaineers are now 21-17-4 in all-time NCAA Tournament matches and 12-5-2 in the first round.