West Virginia Falls in NCAA Tournament Second Round

Gold and Blue Nation

A 74th-minute penalty kick goal by the Owls was the difference as the No. 5-seeded West Virginia University women’s soccer team fell to Rice, 1-0, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, at WakeMed Soccer Park, in Cary, North Carolina, on Saturday.

Despite leading 20-1 in shots, including 11 shots in the second half, the Mountaineers (10-3-1, 7-2-0 Big 12) couldn’t overcome Rice’s second-half penalty kick goal. West Virginia also placed six shots on goal and received seven corner kick opportunities, but couldn’t manage to find the back of the net in the 90-minute contest.

“Rice definitely disrupted us, dropping everybody around the 18 and really defending on the inside,” WVU coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “We were a little disrupted and were forced to find different space than we normally would have. At the end of the day, we just didn’t find the back of the net despite having our chances. I have to give a lot of credit to Rice, though.”

WVU started creating chances early, earning a corner kick at the five-minute mark. A trio of Mountaineers got shots off inside the first 15 minutes, but all three sailed off the mark. Dominating possession throughout the duration of the first half, West Virginia’s best chance of the half came off the head of junior midfielder Isabella Sibley at the 35:03 mark, but it was saved by the Rice keeper.

Coming out of the locker room, the game remained scoreless, and the Mountaineers continued to dominate possession and keep the ball in their own attacking half. However, the Owls were able to battle against any chance that West Virginia managed to create. At 58:41, Sibley added another shot on target that resulted in a Mountaineer corner kick. Sophomore defender Julianne Vallerand got her head on the cross from sophomore midfielder Juliana Lynch, but it ricocheted off the near post. Freshman midfielder Lilly McCarthy took the rebound, but her attempt sailed wide.

With just under 20 minutes to play, the Owls finally gained possession in their own final third. They capitalized and drew a foul inside the box to earn a penalty kick opportunity. Rice’s Delaney Schultz managed to get the better of sophomore goalkeeper Kayza Massey, placing the ball in the top left corner for the score. From there, West Virginia struggled to play from behind and was unable to tally the equalizer, ultimately falling, 1-0, to the Owls.

“It really boils down to one shot and one goal,” Izzo-Brown continued. “That’s the tough part about the game of soccer. You can dominate all of the statistics and still not win. This was a very tough year for every athlete, and I was just so proud of the way we sacrificed by staying safe and working hard every day. Unfortunately, this game didn’t go our way, but there’s no better team that I’d want to coach. I’m just so proud of them.”

Vallerand led WVU with five shots on Saturday, while Sibley paced the team with a pair of shots on goal. Ten different Mountaineers tallied shot attempts in the defeat. Massey’s only test in the game came on the 74th-minute penalty kick, while Rice keeper Bella Killgore notched six saves in the match.

West Virginia now moves to 23-19-5 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, making its 21st-straight appearance in the national tournament this season. The squad now drops to 0-1 all-time against Rice, as Saturday marked their first-ever matchup with the Owls.

The Mountaineers finish the 2020-21 season with a 10-3-1 overall record after winning 10 or more matches for the 21st consecutive season. West Virginia also went undefeated at home for the first time since 2005, winning six contests at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.

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