CARY, N.C. – The No. 5-seeded West Virginia University women’s soccer team opens NCAA Tournament play with a second-round matchup against Rice on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff from WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina, is tabbed for 12 p.m. ET.
“It’s finally tournament time, and we have been working extremely hard for this opportunity,” Mountaineer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “We have a ton of respect for Rice, as they don’t give up a lot of goals and have won 13 games. Our team knows what is at stake tomorrow, and they are excited to play.”
WVU is making its 21st consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, good for the fifth-longest streak in the nation. The Mountaineers, who are 23-18-5 all-time in NCAA Tournament action, have advanced to the Round of 16 four times in the last five years and seven times overall, including last season. West Virginia earned a first-round bye in this year’s 48-team tournament, a first in program history.
Saturday marks the first-ever meeting between the Mountaineers and Owls. Rice is set to become WVU’s 116th different opponent, including its second first-time opponent this season. Overall, West Virginia is 2-0 against members of Conference USA. The squad hasn’t played a C-USA opponent since Sept. 5, 2011 (Marshall, W, 3-0).
Last time out, WVU capped the 2020-21 regular season with a 1-1 draw at No. 12 Virginia on April 10, at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia. The result secured an unbeaten spring, regular -season campaign for the Mountaineers, who finished 3-0-1.
Trailing 1-0, junior midfielder Isabella Sibley scored the equalizer in the 82nd minute to help the squad earn the draw. Sophomore goalkeeper Kayza Massey had a career day, tallying a career-high five saves against the Cavaliers, including a diving stop to deny a would-be UVA “Golden Goal” in the 108th minute.
WVU is co-led in goals by senior midfielder Stefany Ferrer-vanGinkel and junior forward Alina Stahl (6). Redshirt junior forward Lauren Segalla paces the club with five assists on the season, while sophomore goalkeeper Kayza Massey is 7-1-1 with two clean sheets between the posts in 2020-21.
In the latest United Soccer Coaches National Poll, released on April 20, the Mountaineers rank No. 5, marking the squad’s eighth consecutive week inside the top five. West Virginia also ranks No. 4 in this week’s TopDrawerSoccer.com poll. Rice checked in at No. 22 in the latest United Soccer Coaches National Poll.
Rice is led by second-year coach Brian Lee, who earned Conference USA Head Coach of the Year honors this season. The Owls enter Saturday’s fixture with a 13-2-1 record on the year. The C-USA champions defeated Furman, 3-1, on April 28, in the NCAA First Round. In all, Rice is making its fifth tournament appearance in program history. The squad’s first-round win was its first NCAA Tournament victory.
The Owls enter Saturday’s match with 37 total goals on the campaign, which ranks No. 12 nationally. Freshman midfielder Mikala Furuto has found the back of the net six times this season to lead the Owls in goals.