The expectations are always high for West Virginia women’s soccer, and despite losing much of their starting lineup from last season, the same goes for this year. Not only are they ranked as one of the top teams in the nation, but they were voted to finish atop of the Big 12 once again.
With the loss of key pieces like Bianca St. Georges and Hannah Abraham, the Mountaineers are heading into a “rebuild year.” Much of their squad this year will be made up of freshmen, taking away much of the valuable experience they normally have.
That experience would come quite handy this weekend, when the Mountaineers have their season opener on Friday against Duquesne before returning to the field on Sunday against No. 2 Stanford. Those Friday to Sunday turnarounds, head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown says, are difficult — especially for young players.
“Even if it wasn’t Stanford/Duquesne, that has nothing to do with it,” she said. “It’s just that quick turnaround for our student-athlete is so awful physically, mentally; and then for us as a staff to try to get them quickly ready.”
With a front-loaded schedule to start the year, Izzo-Brown says it will help as a learning experience to see in which areas the team excels or falls behind.
“I think when you challenge yourselves, not saying we’re gonna lose, but those quality opponents are really going to expose areas that we have to get better in or expose areas that we are really good in,” she explained.
While the attention may mostly be on the younger players, there are still several quality veterans with experience ready to run this team — players like senior keeper Rylee Foster and junior forward Lauren Segalla. There are high expectations for both players, both inside and outside the program.
For Segalla, the latter is especially true. Now as a leader and one of the top scorers and minute-getters last season, there is a lot of responsibility being placed on her shoulders.
“She’s silent and deadly, and Lauren can’t be silent,” Izzo-Brown said. “She can be deadly, but she can’t be silent.”
The Mountaineers officially kick off their 2019 campaign on Friday at home against Duquesne, an opponent who head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown calls “dangerous.”
“The thing about Duquesne is they bring in really high quality kids, and you know, they play quick,” Izzo-Brown said. “They have some players that can finish, but they also have players who can really move the ball well, and I think that can always cause some problems.”
The contest kicks off at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium at 7 p.m.