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No. 12 WVU women’s soccer looks to recoup with Bucknell road trip

Gold and Blue Nation

West Virginia women’s soccer will embark on its first road trip when it faces Bucknell at the Bisons’ Emmitt Field at Holmes Stadium on Friday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and it will be shown on ESPN+.

The Mountaineers took their first loss over the weekend, falling to No. 4 Virginia on Sunday, 1-0. The Cavaliers took an early lead after a goal from Diana Ordonez, and WVU was unable to make it up by the final whistle — but still, they ramped up the pressure and made sure to keep it close.

Head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown didn’t get the performance she wanted from her team against its first ranked opponent of the season. Virginia maintained possession for much of the contest and held the Mountaineers to just two shots on net. That number doesn’t necessarily define the team’s play in that contest, says the coach, and there was a lot to build from in it.

“You look at, Lilly [McCarthy] strikes the ball and hits crossbar, and you’re like, okay, maybe first half wasn’t as bad as I thought,” Izzo-Brown said. “The thing we want is…all fixables. Obviously we and I respect Virginia a lot and I know that they created their opportunities because they’re a top-4 program. For me, having that type of pressure this early, we just now have to get better from it and we felt that a lot of the things that Virginia were able to do was just something that we haven’t been able to address and now need to address to get to their level.”

Izzo-Brown for a bounce back performance on their upcoming road trip against a relatively unfamiliar opponent. WVU has faced Bucknell just once in program history — a 3-0 victory for the Mountaineers in 2017 at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. This year, WVU heads to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania to face the Bisons, who sit at 1-0-1 after two games.

After getting shut out against the Cavaliers, West Virginia hopes to get back on the scoreboard against the Bisons. Along the lines of those fixable mistakes, one of Izzo-Brown’s creeds is attention to detail — in her words, the little things make the big things happen.

This is evident on the stats sheet — West Virginia ranks at the bottom of the Big 12 in non-conference play with just seven shots per game, despite ranking second with two goals per game. If WVU capitalized on one of its valuable chances against Virginia, the story of that game would have been much different.

“It’s as simple as eliminated dangerous opportunities for opposition and being real special in the final third, and those are the things that we need to continue to work on,” Izzo-Brown said. “That final third pass-assist is so important, and at the end of the day we’re always hunting consistency.”

There’s no doubt the Mountaineers have the talent to get to that level, though. Julianne Vallerand is the starting striker in her third season with the program, despite playing time on the wing and on the back line in her first two seasons. Likewise, the back line is full of experience with Jordan Brewster anchoring the center of the pitch and speedsters Mackenzie Aunkst and Nicole Payne bringing up the outside.

Kayza Massey will likely get her third start of the season after the Virginia loss. She missed out on the clean sheet due to Ordonez’s tough header, but showed particular goalkeeping prowess throughout the match — but, as Izzo-Brown says, that position is judged by the number on the scoreboard.

“At the end of the day, if they don’t get a shutout, they’re going to be disappointed,” Izzo-Brown said. “I thought Kayza made two big saves for us, so I think she understands that she made the saves that she was supposed to make, and then she came up with a couple of big ones.”

Overall, the team is hunting consistency — and it’s looking to start it Friday night at Bucknell. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the contest will be shown on ESPN+.

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