Nikki Izzo-Brown was clear at the beginning of this season: every year is a “rebuild” in college sports, but this season will be the biggest yet for West Virginia women’s soccer. Through five games, it appears this rebuild has already made some progress.
With two wins already under their belt, the Mountaineers have shown they are a tough team to play — but their first two losses to top ten opponents showed they had a distance to go. On their third shot against No. 8 Penn State, they weren’t able to get the win — but they hung in there for a draw after two overtimes.
Izzo-Brown says that she has seen growth in her team since the opening weekend.
“[I’ve been] just defining their roles and seeing what their strengths are, but also where our weaknesses are,” she said. “I have a better understanding of what we can and can’t do….And I think you have to adapt to the team.”
The Mountaineers are looking to continue that growth in their sixth match-up of the season on Thursday against Stony Brook. The Seawolves began their season 3-0, but have since gone 1-2 under first-year coach Tobias Bischoff.
“[Bischoff] is definitely going to be a coach that knows how to get results,” Izzo-Brown said. “He’s gonna do everything he can to be organized, to be effective, and to come out and do everything he can to disrupt us.”
Unfortunately for Izzo-Brown and her team, they recently lost Lauren Segalla, a top scorer from last season and one of the few veterans in the starting lineup, for the rest of the season. Who will step up in her place is one of the biggest question marks going into the next weekend, which is capped off with a road game against No. 15 Georgetown.
“We’ve got some big shoes to fill because Lauren was one of our most experienced minutes kids, and now we’ve got even more inexperience,” Izzo-Brown said. “I think with that, unfortunately, it’s awful for Lauren but it’s gonna give somebody else an opportunity to step up.”
With vets like senior Jade Gentile and sophomore Alina Stahl, there are still experienced players who can generate the attack — but they will likely need the freshmen step up as well. Luckily, their scoring so far this season has been led from the back, spear-headed by freshman defender Julianne Vallerand.
In order for the young lineup to succeed, Izzo-Brown they need to focus on the details.
“[I want to see] just us eliminating mental mistakes and taking care of the little things, because the little things will make the big things happen,” she said. “You know if we do our pillars, then the wins’ll come.”
No. 23 West Virginia will kick off its weekend against Stony Brook Thursday at 7 p.m. at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium, and then hit the road to face No. 15 Georgetown on Sunday.