MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A header from Blake Miller was the difference in leading the 18th-ranked West Virginia women’s soccer team past visiting Rutgers, 1-0, in BIG EAST quarterfinal action Sunday afternoon at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
The victory advances the Mountaineers into the BIG EAST semifinals for the sixth straight season. The win also marked the program’s 10th straight victory – a school record.
“This team just keeps finding ways to win,” said coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. “We’ve won close ones and we’ve won games from behind. Today, we battled and finished a great opportunity.”
Freshman forward Frances Silva created WVU’s scoring chance in the 54th minute by settling a pass on the right side of the field, inside the 18 yard box. Silva took the ball to the end line, beating a Rutgers defender, before finding Miller on a pass into the middle of the box. Miller sent a ball into the left corner to give West Virginia a 1-0 lead.
“I don’t think it was Rutgers making a mistake as much as it was Frances creating a brilliant opportunity,” said Izzo-Brown. “She served a perfect ball to Blake who again found the back of the net. “
“I have to credit Frances for making the play happen,” said Miller. “She beat a couple of defenders to the end line and drew some players near post. I was left wide open in the middle and headed it in.”
Miller’s goal was her team-leading 10th of the season and 23rd of her career. She has scored five goals and tallied two assists in the last five matches.
The Mountaineer defense was stout in picking up their 11th shutout of the season, led by center backs Drea Barklage and Erica Henderson. WVU held Rutgers to only three shots on-goal, and only one shot attempt from its starting forwards.
“Drea and Erica were warriors out there for us,” said Izzo-Brown. “And Meghan (Lewis) and Bry (McCarthy) played well in preventing Rutgers from having quality looks. The whole backline, along with Kerri (Butler), continues to work together to make it difficult for opposing teams.”
WVU’s best scoring chance of the first half came on a diving header from Barklage. Silva was fouled on the right flank, setting up a free kick from McCarthy in the 36th minute. Her service into the box was headed wide by Barklage.
Rutgers had the better play in the opening half, including a scoring chance in the 26th minute after a Scarlet Knight corner kick. RU’s April Price headed a ball just high of the goal from 12 yards out.
“It was definitely a midfield battle and they did a good job,” said Izzo-Brown of the ball being in the middle of the field for most of the contest. “That is the strength of their team with Gina (DeMaio) and Ashley (Medcalf). We were able to make some adjustments at the half to pick up the pace and gain some momentum."
DeMaio also gave the Scarlet Knights their best look of the second half on a long range attempt in the 61st minute. WVU’s Butler was able to punch the ball over the crossbar to keep Rutgers off the board.
Butler finished with three saves in recording her 41st career shutout.
RU held an 8-4 shot advantage, led by DeMaio’s three shots.
WVU improves to 14-4-1 on the season, while Rutgers drops to 10-9-1.
West Virginia is now 11-8-4 all-time in BIG EAST Championship matches, including a 5-1-2 mark in its last eight tournament games.
The Mountaineers travel to Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J., for the 2010 BIG EAST Championship to face Connecticut on Friday, Nov. 5, at 5 p.m. The other semifinal match features USF versus Marquette – making the final four all teams from the conference’s American Division.
All three games of the 2010 Women's Soccer BIG EAST Championship will be televised on CBS College Sports, while the title game also will be seen on numerous regional sports networks, including SNY.