Blank Leads WVU To NCAA Win
By Tim Goodenow for MSNsportsNET.com
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Senior All-American Carolyn Blank notched the fastest goal in West Virginia’s 10-year NCAA tournament history, leading the Mountaineers past Loyola University Maryland, 2-0, Friday afternoon in NCAA Championship first-round action at W. Dennie Spry Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“It was great leadership from Carolyn to finish that first opportunity,” said WVU coach Nikki Izzo-Brown of her three-time all-BIG EAST midfielder. “We played with a lot of intensity and that is what you need during postseason play.”
Blank, the school’s all-time leader in games played, proved why she is one of the nation’s top players in the air, finishing a corner kick only 89 seconds into the match to give the Mountaineers an early 1-0 lead. The goal at the 1:29 mark is the fastest of the season for WVU and is believed to be the second-fastest ever in 14 seasons of Mountaineer soccer.
Forward Morgan Betscher worked the ball into the left corner, drawing the first of six corner kicks on the afternoon. Betscher served the ensuing corner into the box where midfielder Caroline Szwed flicked it on to defender Meghan Lewis who found Blank in front of the net. Blank completed the play with a header into the right side of the net. Lewis and Szwed earned assists on the play – a team-leading sixth assist of the season for Szwed.
“We learned our lesson in the BIG EAST Championships that we need to play a full 90-minute game,” said Izzo-Brown. “I thought we came out today with great intensity from the opening whistle. It was critical to get off to a fast start and we did just that.”
The Mountaineers carried the momentum of the early goal into a solid first half performance, attempting six shots in the first six minutes of the contest. Szwed and forwards Blake Miller and Megan Mischler each took shots in pressuring Loyola’s defense.
Mischler, WVU’s leading goal scorer, nearly added a second goal in the 16th minute on a ball passed into the middle from Miller. Mischler’s shot was sent just wide right as Greyhound goalkeeper Danielle Ippolito came charging off her line.
West Virginia continued to pressure Loyola and added a second goal at the 36:35 mark on a one-timer from forward Bry McCarthy. A trio of freshmen gave WVU its 2-0 lead as defender Caralee Keppler pushed forward into the attack. Keppler took the ball up the right side and found midfielder Bri Rodriguez in the middle who brilliantly left the ball with a smooth touch behind her to a wide open McCarthy. McCarthy sent a hard shot into the right corner of the goal from 16-yards out for her third goal of the season.
WVU had solid scoring chances in the 29th minute on a shot from 18-yards out by Miller that was saved and in the 31st minute on a ball sent high of the crossbar by Szwed.
The Mountaineer defense did its part as well, limiting the Greyhounds to four shots on the afternoon, 11 shots below their season average. Loyola’s only shot of the first half was a harmless attempt from 30 yards out by midfielder Gianna Mangione that drifted wide right.
“Defense wins championships and we’ve been stressing that all week long heading into the national tournament,” said Izzo-Brown. “I’m very proud of how the team player overall defensively.”
The West Virginia back line and goalkeeper Kerri Butler earned the team’s 13th shutout of the season, tying a school record set in each of the past three seasons.
WVU finished with a 19-4 shot advantage, including a 13-1 edge at the half. Mischler and Miller combined for 11 of the team’s 19 attempts.
Lewis and forward Chelsey Corroto each had solid looks in the second half. Lewis sent a header wide left off WVU’s sixth corner kick of the match. Corroto beat Ippolito to a 50-50 ball and slotted a ball wide of the left post in 68th minute.
Loyola’s offense was held in check throughout the match with its best scoring chance coming early in the second half as defender Kelly Thomas’ 20-yard shot sailed high of the goal.
The victory pushed WVU’s record to 10-6-6 overall and snapped Loyola’s 14 game-unbeaten streak. The Greyhounds, the 2009 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions, end their season with a 15-5-3 record.
The Mountaineers advance to the NCAA second round for the seventh time in 10 years. They await the winner of site host and 14th-ranked Wake Forest and Kennesaw State. NCAA second round action at Spry Stadium in Winston-Salem is schedule for Sunday, Nov. 15, at 1 p.m.