No. 12 WVU women’s soccer blows past Buffalo in season opener

Gold and Blue Nation

No. 12 West Virginia women’s soccer opened the fall season up with a smashing 4-0 win over Buffalo at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium on Saturday.

The Mountaineers were dominant from whistle to whistle, maintaining 66 percent possession throughout the contest. WVU notched two goals in each half from both veterans and newcomers — but still, Coach Nikki Izzo-Brown walked off the pitch unsatisfied.

“It’s 90 minutes of West Virginia soccer, I thought we played 45. We’re not a young team anymore, we have to set the tone,” she said. “We have to execute just our jobs, and I thought in the first half, it wasn’t as sharp as we could have been.”

After a few attempts on net from WVU, Julianne Vallerand put the first score on the board with an easy finish off an assist from freshman winger Dilary Heredia-Beltran 25 minutes into the game. The junior forward Vallerand made the start at striker for the first time in her career, after making appearances at both fullback and wing in her first two seasons.

The veteran presence stayed strong through the first half when Lauren Segalla notched her first goal of the year in the 31st minute after tapping in a ground cross from left back Mackenzie Aunkst — a junior setting up a senior.

“Every forward wants to get that monkey off their back and they got it early,” Izzo-Brown said. “And we got a shut-out, so I’m pleased with that. Really, no mistake cost us.”

A pair of new faces added insurance in the second half, starting with graduate transfer midfielder Maya McCutcheon. The former Oklahoma Sooner made a run into the box and composed herself for an unassisted curling finish to put WVU up by three.

Freshman Rhea Kijowski sealed the deal for WVU in the 87th minute, putting away a pass from fellow freshman Leah Sparacio to give the final insurance goal to the Mountaineers. In total, five freshmen contributed minutes to the Mountaineers, including two starters in Heredia Beltran and Annika Leslie.

“Dilary, she’s a very dynamic player and she’s somebody that we know is very capable of doing her job at a very high level,” Izzo-Brown said. “And again, coming here and playing here is different. She represents US Soccer at the youth national level, but you know what, it doesn’t matter when you come here, you’ve gotta grind and you’ve gotta figure it out.”

Kayza Massey got the start in goal and played the first 72 minutes. She wasn’t tested much, though, making just one save before Izzo-Brown sent Maddie Murphy out to finish the final 18 minutes. Murphy finished the clean sheet with one more save for WVU.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, goalie Emily Kelly made just one save on the five shots on net she faced in the contest.

This Mountaineer victory was the first athletic event on campus without a capacity limit since the end of the men’s and women’s 2019-20 basketball seasons. WVU pulled in a capacity of 708 fans — not nearly a program record, but not out of the ordinary for an early-season clash — and Izzo-Brown was happy to see some fans back in the stands.

“It’s been real tough,” she said. “I just think everybody to get out and enjoy a good soccer game on a good night, I think we need a lot of those.”

WVU gets its chance on a quick turnaround, as the schedule is back to its normal two-games-per-week cadence. The 12th-ranked Mountaineers look ahead to Sunday, when they face No. 4 Virginia at 2 p.m. ET at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. That game will be shown on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

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