Women's Soccer: Miller Nets Game-Winner
By Tim Goodenow for MSNsportsNET.com
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia forward Blake Miller slipped behind the Syracuse back line and scored the game-winner on a rain-soaked field Friday night at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. Miller’s third score of the season was the lone goal in WVU’s 1-0 shutout against the visiting Orange.
Miller’s timely goal at 50:07 came only moments before a lightning bolt surfaced from the dark skies. She received a perfect through ball up the middle into the box from midfielder Caroline Szwed. Miller beat SU goalkeeper Eliza Bennett-Hattan to the ball and slotted it softly off the inside of the right post from 12-yards out.
“It was a great pass from Caroline to send the ball through their back line,” said Miller of her 13th career goal. “I was able to get a foot on the ball with their goalkeeper charging and finish the play. It was raining pretty hard and our team played great in sloppy conditions.”
The Mountaineers improve to 6-4-4 (3-2-1 BIG EAST) while the Orange drop to 4-7-3 (1-4-1 BIG EAST).
A steady downpour of rain came midway through the first half and lasted through the match. Play was suspended for 47 minutes until a fine effort by the WVU maintenance staff worked the field back into playable conditions.
"We’ve played two NCAA tournament games – one against Virginia and one against Texas – that were pretty nasty," said WVU coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. "This ranks right up there in terms of bad weather and tough playing conditions. I’m proud of the way our ladies responded after the delay to finish out the game."
Miller tied a career high with six shots to lead the Mountaineers. WVU finished with an 18-5 edge in shots and a 16-1 edge in corner kicks. The 16 corner kicks were a season high.
A St. Louis, Mo., native, Miller nearly added a second goal in the 85th minute on a free kick from 25-yards out. Miller bent the ball around the SU wall of defenders with Bennett-Hattan diving to her right to force the shot over the crossbar.
“We had a lot of chances to score in the first half and obviously didn’t,” said Izzo-Brown. “It was great timing to come out in the second half and put one away quickly. Caroline sent a great ball into Blake. Blake had to make it interesting by hitting the post and bouncing in.”
Only nine minutes into the match, All-American midfielder Carolyn Blank found the crossbar after Szwed was fouled just past midfield. Defender Nicole Mailloux served a free kick into the box where Blank’s header rang hard off the crossbar.
Goalkeeper Kerri Butler was solid in goal, making two saves for her sixth shutout, and second straight, of the season.
In the 78th minute, Syracuse got behind the WVU back line for its best scoring chance of the match, allowing forward Tessa MacDougall a clean look from 20-yards out. MacDougall sent a low-liner and Butler smothered the ball for the save.
Bennett-Hattan finished with five saves and a Orange defender picked up a team save in the 88th minute off a shot from Blank.
West Virginia extends its lead in the all-time series to 6-3-2 and has outscored the Orange 15-1 in the past four meetings.
“We are looking forward to Sunday’s match against the country’s 11th-ranked team in St. John’s,” said Izzo-Brown. “It’s going to be a challenge but something our ladies are looking forward to. It’s a huge game for us and we want every point possible right now.”
The Mountaineers return to action on Sunday, Oct. 9, at 1 p.m. against 11th-ranked St. John’s. West Virginia will wear pink Nike uniforms as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Day, and fans are encouraged to wear pink in joining WVU’s effort to help kick breast cancer. A check presentation will be made at halftime, with the women’s soccer program raising nearly $12,000 for the Betty Puskar Breast Cancer Fund at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.