For a “rebuilding” year, West Virginia women’s soccer sure has a tough schedule.
Nikki Izzo-Brown and her Mountaineers currently sit at 1-1 after their opening weekend, earning a home victory against Duquesne but falling to No. 2 Stanford just two nights later. For many programs, that could normally be the last top-ten opponent they face until the post-season, if at all. It isn’t quite that easy for West Virginia, though, as they are preparing to once again face a top-ten opponent in No. 9 Virginia on Sunday after a Friday match-up with High Point.
Now that her young team has gone through their first Friday-Sunday weekend of the season, Izzo-Brown knows what the focus is this week.
“We have to get better. We understand that it’s a game about inches, it’s the little things that make the big things happen,” she said. “We made little mistakes, but the big things — like a loss — happened.”
Those Friday-Sunday turnarounds are tough on young teams and players, especially freshmen. It is made even tougher when the No. 2 team in the country is on the back end of it, but Izzo-Brown says her team handled the adversity well.
One of the advantages to such a schedule is it allows coaches to identify issues (or advantages) that their squad may have early. The main issue with the squad at this point is inexperience, and the mistakes that come from that are fixable.
“It’s the little things. It’s just taking care of the ball in tight spaces, you know, not giving square balls in the middle third of the field,” she said. “You know, these are things you can look up on the internet and easily find and those are things that we know we can eliminate.”
Top opponents will capitalize on those small mistakes, which is partly why the Stanford took a 3-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. For their match-up on Friday, Izzo-Brown says her team needs to watch out for much of the same against an experienced and quick High Point squad.
“They’re a team that, again, if you give them any kind of…opportunity, they’re gonna hurt you,” Izzo-Brown explained. “They have some very, very good experienced players and some very high-tempo players that we need to keep an eye on.”
The ultimate focus, though, is on their own game.
“In this game, there’s such parity,” she said. “You can have Stanford on your chest or High Point on your chest, it doesn’t matter. We have to focus on West Virginia soccer.”