MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia women’s soccer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown does not mince words when speaking of the latest gem to emerge from her treasure chest of highly skilled student-athletes.
“The thing with Cari is – she’s a beast,” Izzo-Brown said of sophomore defender Cari Price
. “You talk to her off the field, and she’s so nonchalant about things and so nice. But on the field? You don’t want to mess around with her. When she’s in front of the net, I have all the confidence in the world she’s going to put the ball away.”
That confidence is well deserved, as Price, a Sykesville, Md., native, has been playing well-beyond her experience. A little-used reserve her rookie season, Price saw action in four matches in 2012, taking one shot in 19 minutes against Western Carolina and logging a career-best 23 minutes against High Point.
This season? Not only has she reached the pitch in all 12 games, she has started at midfield since game eight, taken 16 shots, the third-highest total on the team, and scored four goals, including the game-winner in the No. 10-ranked Mountaineers’ 4-3 victory at then-No. 9 Baylor on Sept. 29. She currently sits fourth on the team with 10 points (four goals, two assists).
“I see my role as just going out on the field and doing what I can for my team,” Price thoughtfully explained. “I just do my job, as coach Izzo-Brown says. I do what I’m told to do.”
Price has been “told” to do a lot this season. One of the key sparks off the bench early in the year, she was forced into the starting lineup when senior midfielder Kara Blosser
went down with a season-ending knee injury during the Mountaineers’ 4-0 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 13.
The year was already shaping up to be memorable for Price, as she had crossed off several career firsts at that point, including her first two career goals, which came in the Mountaineers’ 4-0 victory over Central Michigan on Aug. 30.
“I kind of blacked out during that first goal,” she laughed, recalling her score that followed over 40 minutes of scoreless play between the two teams. “It was the best feeling in the world. Then the second goal came, and I was just shocked. It was amazing.”
Scoring two goals in a game – a feat only she has achieved this season for WVU – is one of the few situations that could shake the normally calm, easy-going Price.
“If you ask coach Izzo-Brown, she’ll tell you that I’m too laid back sometimes,” the wildlife and fisheries major said with a smirk. “My mom (Linda) is like that, too – she’s really laid back. My dad (Vince) is laid back, too. That’s just how I am with everything. It’s not always good, but I’m just a laid-back person.”
Price is quick to point out that her laid-back personality should not be mistaken for a stress-free mentality. While she tries to not over-think situations, she says that she still gets nervous before kickoff. Fortunately, she has two life anchors sitting in the stands that bring her comfort and ease.
“I’m always just excited to see my family – knowing that I can look up and see them in the stands really calms me down,” she explained.
If Price had any underlying nerves last Sunday, she did a great job hiding them. The Mountaineers were holding strong late in the contest with Baylor, but the Bears were smelling blood, as they cut into WVU’s 3-0 lead in the 67th minute and then tacked on a second goal eight minutes later. Needing a score to pad their cushion, Price came through for the Mountaineers in the 77th minute, heading a lofting serve from senior forward Frances Silva
for her fourth goal of the season.
“It’s always nice to think about your own goals, but I always give a lot of credit to Franny,” Price explained. “She has assisted on almost all my goals, and you can’t score without your teammates.”
Price’s goal and the team’s victory gave WVU an early boost in the defense of its Big 12 Conference regular-season title, as the Bears are the reigning conference tournament champions. The Mountaineers’ 11th win over a top-10 team in nine consecutive seasons, the victory snapped BU’s 31-match unbeaten streak and pushed WVU’s all-time Big 12 record to 9-0-1.
“(Wins) like that just put a smile on your face,” Price said, smiling. “When coach says we’re ‘taking names,’ she is reminding us to go out on to the field and play for something. You don’t just go out on the field and play – you want to finish the game. You want to take Baylor’s name; you want to take Oklahoma’s name. We have a purpose to play for, and when you play for a purpose, you’re more successful.
“We like to chase goals. You want to take it. When you take something from somebody, it feels so much better when you win.”
The Mountaineers are looking forward to taking another name tonight, as they play host to Texas at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium at 7 p.m. The match promises to be competitive, as it pits the conference’s only two teams without a Big 12 loss or tie against each other. Price figures to factor into WVU’s potential success this evening, too, and Izzo-Brown believes any hand she has in a Mountaineer victory will be because she put in the hard work throughout the 2013 offseason.
“I’ve said how proud I am of Cari – she has put the work in every day to elevate her game to this point,” she explained. “She’s keeping it simple, but she’s just doing her job, and she’s doing it well. I attribute everything Cari is doing to how hard she is going after it. She wants to perform, she wants to compete and she wants to have that success for the team. I am fully confident in her and behind her in everything that she does.”
A coach’s confidence can be hard to earn, but Price has received a stamp of approval from the 18-year Mountaineer coach. Whether she’s a goal-scoring “beast” or an easy-going teammate, Price has found a path toward success, and she shows no signs of slowing down.