As the years go on, more and more Mountaineer soccer stars are making their names known as they don their country’s colors on the pitch.
There’s no question that Nikki Izzo-Brown’s WVU program has its hands all over the sport — she has put together one of the juggernauts in women’s college soccer, making 21 straight NCAA Tournaments to go along with 10 regular-season and seven tournament conference titles. It’s her players, though, that are getting WVU its global recognition.
Just this past week, two Mountaineers made their debuts for their country’s senior national squads, adding to a long list of players to represent their homelands that goes back to the early years of WVU women’s soccer.
Amanda Cicchini (Canada, 6 caps)
Cicchini became the first Mountaineer to make an appearance with her country’s senior international team on April 21, 2005, when her Canada squared off against Germany in a friendly. Her squad lost 3-1, but she went on to make five more starts for Canada, last in 2006 against the US.
In Morgantown, the midfielder terrorized Big East opponents from 2005-08. She made 89 appearances with 86 starts for WVU, scoring 10 goals and earning nine assists, including an All-American junior season in 2007.
Bry McCarthy (Canada, 6 caps)
McCarthy, who hails from Ajax, Ontario, made six appearances on Canada’s back line from 2010-2013. She last donned the red shirt in the Yongchuan Cup in China against Norway.
She added nine goals as a defender for WVU, earning All-America honors after her senior season before going pro with the Western New York Flash. McCarthy also did stints in Germany’s Frauen Bundesliga before coming back to West Virginia as a graduate assistant. Now, she is an assistant coach at Saint Louis.
Kadeisha Buchanan (Canada, 102 caps)
One of the key pieces to WVU’s historic 2016 squad, Buchanan was already known to be a star in Canada before that season even began. She was named the Best Young Player at the 2015 Women’s World Cup and earned a spot on the event’s All-Star Squad, then helped lead Canada to Olympic Bronze in the 2016 Rio games.
As captain Christine Sinclair’s career inches to a close, the 25-year-old Buchanan is emerging as one of the faces of Canada’s national team, for which she’s scored four goals and three assists from the center back position. She has been named the Canadian Player of the Year three times and is slated to start for Canada in the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
When she’s away from the national team, she is a stalwart on one of Europe’s most dominant clubs, FCF Olympique Lyonnais in France. The club won four straight UEFA Women’s Champions League titles from 2016-17 to 2019-20, while also winning the Division 1 Feminine title each season as well. To add to it, Lyon won the Coupe de France in 2017, 2019 and 2020 — marking three trebles already in her young career.
Ashley Lawrence (Canada, 94 caps)
In a stroke of poetic justice, Lawrence’s Paris Saint-Germain side happened to be the one to end the dynastic reign of Buchanan’s Lyon in France, capturing the Division 1 Feminine title in 2020-21 — but they’ve been comrades in Canada longer than they’ve been foes in France.
Lawrence made her first appearance for Canada in 2013, making her debut alongside McCarthy at the Yongchuan Cup. Since then, she’s competed in two World Cups, one Olympics and a host of friendlies and other competitions. In that span, she’s notched seven goals and 10 assists from the midfield.
For PSG, however, Lawrence spends more time as a fullback, and she has set her self apart as one of the top players in her position. She started 19 of her 20 appearances for Les Parisiens in their title-winning 2020-21 campaign, notching a goal and four assists.
Vanessa Flores (Mexico, 3 caps)
Flores gave the Mountaineers four solid years in Morgantown, starting 52 matches in four seasons for Nikki Izzo-Brown. In the middle of it all, she made her debut for Mexico’s senior team, appearing in three matches for La Tri in 2017 and 2018.
After finishing her time at West Virginia, she made Liga MX Femenil history as the first foreign-born Mexican player to sign for one of the league’s clubs when she joined UANL Tigres. She appeared in seven matches for Tigres throughout 2019-20, including five starts.
Rylee Foster (Canada, 0 caps)
Foster has yet to make an appearance for Canada, but she was included in the squad for the 2021 SheBelieves Cup as a reserve goalkeeper. She does, however, have extensive experience with her country’s youth teams, starting 16 matches for Canada’s U-17 and U-20 teams.
That could change soon, though, as she starts to find a groove across the pond. Foster recently signed a contract extension with Liverpool FC, her childhood favorite club which looks to include the former Mountaineer as an important part of its future. She was named LFC’s player of the month for April after logging two clean sheets, including a dramatic victory over Sheffield United that included two penalty saves and ended with Foster coming off on a stretcher with a concussion.
Michaela Abam (Cameroon, 4 caps)
Born in Houston, Texas, the former West Virginia sharpshooter made her debut for her parents’ home country of Cameroon with a bang, notching a brace in a 7-0 friendly rout of Zambia in 2018. She received a call-up for the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations later that year, but issues with her passport prevented her from joining the squad.
The next time she suited up for Cameroon was in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, squaring off against her former teammates on Canada. She started all three matches of the group stage and went scoreless, but her team did move on to the knockout stage, falling in the first round to England.
“It was an honourable thing in the fact that I am US-born you know and having through my parents to represent my root country,” Abam told Goal.com after the tournament.
Away from Cameroon, Abam has bounced around a few different countries, starting her professional career with Sky Blue FC (now NJ/NY Gotham FC) before heading overseas to join Paris FC. Now, she plays with Real Betis in Spain, and has been since 2019.
Bianca St. Georges (Canada, 1 cap)
Add another to the list of Mountaineer neighbors to the north: St. Georges became the fifth Mountaineer to debut for Canada on June 11 when she was subbed on during a friendly with the Czech Republic in Spain. She played 11 minutes in the contest, which was a major step for the defender after she underwent surgery in February after suffering a knee injury before the SheBelieves Cup.
St. Georges played four seasons in Morgantown, where she was a two-time team captain on defense. The St. Felix de Valois, Quebec native was then drafted by the Chicago Red Stars, where she has scored a goal in nine appearances.
Nicole Payne (Nigeria, 1 cap)
Payne became the first Mountaineer to appear for the Super Falcons on June 10 in the USWNT Summer Series in Houston, when she was substituted on in the 90th minute against Jamaica. Nigeria fell in the contest, 1-0.
The speedy defender’s debut was especially unique, as she joined the field with her sister, Toni, who made her own debut in February.
“I did not think that I would get a call-up this soon, and it’s a blessing to be able to be here and to be able to play with my sister and compete with a lot of the players here,” she said in a video posted to the Super Falcons’ Instagram page.
Payne just completed her sophomore season at West Virginia, where she has 24 starts in 33 games, scoring four goals and dished two assists. In 2019, she was named to the All-Big 12 Freshman Team, preceding a spot on the 2020 All-Big 12 Second Team.