Entering her 14th season as the only coach in the history of Mountaineer women’s soccer, Head Coach Nikki Izzo-Brown has built a one-time infant program into one of the nation’s elite.
In her previous 13 seasons, Izzo-Brown has coached six players who went on to play professionally, 14 All-Americans, 10 Academic All-Americans, seven BIG EAST Players of the Year and two BIG EAST Rookies of the Year. The Mountaineers enter the 2009 season having made an appearance in each of the last nine NCAA tournaments, the country’s ninth-best active streak.
To date, Izzo-Brown has led the Mountaineers to an impressive 179-70-25 overall record and a 68-35-13 BIG EAST mark that includes four regular season divisional titles and a tournament championship. Izzo-Brown’s teams have been a consistent force in the national rakings, finishing the 2008 season rated 14th.
Entering the 2009 season, she ranks 15th among NCAA Division I coaches all-time with a .699 winning percentage (192-75-25; includes one year at West Virginia Wesleyan).
The 2008 team tied the school record for fewest losses in a season with three defeats, in large part to the success of a talented senior class. Defender Greer Barnes and midfielder Carolyn Blank earned All-America honors, while six Mountaineers earned All-BIG EAST recognition. The freshman class showed promised as the rookies accounted for 19 of the team’s 45 goals on the season.
In 2007, forward Ashley Banks added to Izzo-Brown’s collection of major award winners. Banks, the 2004 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, continued her on-field success and was named the 2007 BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year and a Hermann Trophy finalist. She joined Katie Barnes (2000-01) and Chrissie Abbott (2002) as offensive player of the year recipients for WVU.
Izzo-Brown’s tutelage extends to the midfield where in 2002 and 2003 Lisa Stoia became the first midfielder in BIG EAST history to earn back-to-back midfielder of the year honors.
2007 was a season to remember for the NSCAA/adidas and Soccer Buzz Mid-Atlantic Regional Coach of the Year. WVU was ranked every week throughout the season as they tied a school record for wins with 18. Izzo-Brown’s Mountaineers advanced to the program’s first NCAA Elite Eight after winning BIG EAST regular season and tournament titles. A Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium attendance record was established with well over 3,000 fans for the NCAA Elight Eight contest with USC. Three players earned All-America status and six were named all-BIG EAST, and the team earned an NSCAA Team Academic Award (3.0 GPA or higher) for their seventh-straight year.
Izzo-Brown also spent time with USA Soccer as an assistant coach with the U-20 National Team. She teamed with head coach Jill Ellis to identify candidates to represent the United States at the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
Three seasons ago, Izzo-Brown won another BIG EAST regular season divisional crown and took her high-powered offense to the NCAA tournament for the seventh-straight season as WVU scored a school record 55 goals in 21 games. The Mountaineers also displayed a stingy defense that shutout 13 opponents over the course of the season, including eight BIG EAST opponents.
In 2005, the Mountaineers posted a 7-0 home record at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium en route to making it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. WVU played a total of six ranked teams in 19 matches – including eventual national champion Portland before heading to tournament.
In 2004, the Rochester, N.Y., native coached a youthful Mountaineer squad to its fifth-straight 15-win season with a 15-6-0 overall record. She saw her fourth All-American develop as forward Laura Kane earned the nod from the NSCAA after an eight goal, nine assist senior season. Likewise, the Mountaineers advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row.
Izzo-Brown took a senior-led squad to West Virginia’s first Sweet 16 appearance in 2003. The Mountaineers posted a 17-4-2 record en route to their fourth straight NCAA tournament appearance.
She directed West Virginia to an 18-3-1 record, the most wins in school history, and the program’s first BIG EAST mid-Atlantic division title in 2002. The Mountaineers also received their third consecutive invitation to the NCAA tournament, and defeated Loyola (Md.) 3-0 in the first round to advance in national tournament play for the first time in program history.
For her efforts, Izzo-Brown was named BIG EAST Coach of the Year, her second consecutive year receiving the honor, as well as Mid-Atlantic Regional Coach of the Year by both the NSCAA and Soccer Buzz.
It was just two seasons earlier that Izzo-Brown led WVU to the school’s first-ever NCAA tournament berth and was named 2000 NSCAA/adidas Mid-Atlantic Regional Coach of the Year. The Mountaineers finished fourth in the Mid-Atlantic Division in 2000 with a 3-3 BIG EAST record (15-6 overall). Four members of that team earned spots on BIG EAST all-conference teams, including BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year Barnes and co-BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Stoia.
In 1997, just her second season, Izzo-Brown led the Mountaineers to an 11-6-2 overall mark and a 4-6-1 BIG EAST record.
In WVU’s inaugural season, Izzo-Brown led a young team to an amazing 10-7-2 overall record and a 4-4-1 BIG EAST mark. WVU finished fifth in the conference, surprising BIG EAST coaches, whose preseason prediction picked the fledgling Mountaineers to finish dead last.
Soccer Buzz ranked West Virginia as the eighth-best new program in the nation. In addition, Izzo-Brown's first season at WVU produced a BIG EAST All-Rookie Team member in defender Stacey Sollmann.
Izzo-Brown’s biggest products thus far have been WVU’s all-time leading scorer Abbott and all-time leading assist-maker Stoia. West Virginia’s first Hermann Trophy nominee, Abbott, was a two-time All-American for Izzo-Brown as well as a two-time Soccer Buzz Player of the Year finalist. Also a two-time All-American, Stoia led the Mountaineers in assists in two of her four seasons at WVU. After earning BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year honors in 2002, Stoia became the first women’s soccer player in conference history to win the award in back-to-back seasons when she claimed the title again in 2003. Both Abbott and Stoia started all 87 matches of their careers.
Paving the way for the success of Abbott and Stoia, Barnes was the first Mountaineer women’s soccer player to be named an NSCAA/adidas First Team All-American and captured two straight BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year awards.
Barnes was drafted with the first pick of the second (ninth overall) round of the 2002 Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) professional draft by the Carolina Courage and also played for the San Jose CyberRays. The following year Rachel Kruze joined Barnes in the WUSA. Kruze became Izzo-Brown’s second WUSA player when she was drafted by the Philadelphia Charge on February 2, 2003.
During her coaching tenure, several Mountaineers have participated in the National Team scene with Barnes being selected to the team that won the 2001 Nordic Cup. Most recently, Blank was a member of the U.S. pool and Nicole Mailloux in the Canadian pool last summer.
With the Mountaineers consistently in the national rankings, it is obvious that Izzo-Brown has the program on the right track. But, she’s still not satisfied. Izzo-Brown will accept nothing but winning and improving every time her team steps on the field.
Her intensity speaks for itself. Just ask her players and they will tell you she demands the most out of them. You can read it in her eyes; you can hear it in her voice. Izzo-Brown wants to win and will accept no less out of herself, her coaching staff and her players.
As a player, Izzo-Brown attained All-America status at Rochester, where she was a four-year starter from 1989-92. During that span, Izzo-Brown helped the Yellowjackets to a 58-10-9 record and four straight NCAA tournament appearances. In 1991, as a junior, she led Rochester to a 16-4-2 mark and a spot in the NCAA championship game.
During her career at Rochester, Izzo-Brown also earned all-East, all-region and all-league honors, while meriting Dean's List recognition all four years. Following her senior campaign, she won the prestigious Meryle Spurrier Award, which recognizes Rochester's top female athlete based on leadership, academics and athletics.
Izzo-Brown graduated from Rochester in the spring of 1993 with a degree in psychology. That fall, she was named assistant coach at West Virginia Wesleyan, where she continued her winning ways by helping the Bobcats to a 12-7 record. Izzo-Brown was elevated to head coach in 1994 and took Wesleyan to a 13-5 mark and a spot in the NAIA national tournament. While coaching at the Buckhannon, W.Va., school, Izzo-Brown earned her master's of business administration degree in 1994.
Izzo-Brown accepted her greatest challenge on August 3, 1995, when WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong named her the first head coach of West Virginia's women's soccer team.
In addition to her duties at WVU, Izzo-Brown is certified as an advanced national level coach by the NSCAA, has her USSF “B” liscense and is a region I senior staff Olympic Development member. She also serves on national ranking committees for the NSCAA.
She and her husband, Joe, reside in Morgantown with their daughters Samantha, Gracie and Gabriella.