NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP BRACKET
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A pair of Mountaineer defenders scored goals in leading No. 7 West Virginia past Penn State, 2-1, Sunday afternoon at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va. Juniors Drea Barklage and Meghan Lewis netted first half goals in NCAA Championship second round action, advancing the Mountaineers into the “Sweet 16” for the first time since 2007.
“I’m happy with our effort today as we just beat a very good Penn State team,” said coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. “In the NCAA tournament, you want to play good enough soccer to win, and we did just that. It was a battle, and we came out on top.”
The win moves West Virginia to 18-4-1, tying the school record for most wins in a season. The Mountaineers have won 14 consecutive matches, the second longest streak in the nation – trailing only Stanford.
West Virginia opened strong out of the gates, controlling the action for the majority of the first half. WVU struck first in the 15th minute off a header from Barklage following WVU’s first corner kick of the match, set up by forward Frances Silva.
Bry McCarthy sent a ball into the heart of the box where Barklage drove a ball past Penn State goalkeeper Krissy Tribbett. The goal was the fifth of the season for Barklage and sixth assist for McCarthy.
“We came out ready to play and had a great scouting report,” said forward Megan Mischler. “And we know them so well, having to play them all the time. We grinded out a win, and we’re happy to be moving on to the Sweet 16.”
Less than three minutes later, West Virginia doubled its score as Lewis knocked in a shot from 15 yards out at the 16:42 mark. Lewis moved forward into the attack as midfielder Bri Rodriguez played a ball into the middle that was slightly deflected. Lewis quickly stepped up and drove the ball across the goal, dinging the left post and finding the back of the net to make it 2-0.
“I knew Bri Rod could take it to the end line so I pushed forward a bit,” said Lewis. “I saw it get deflected in the box and took a shot, watched it skim the post and started celebrating.”
Penn State countered with a goal at the 34:16 mark on a through-ball up the middle to forward Danielle Toney. Toney took one touch and beat goalkeeper Kerri Butler to make it 2-1.
PSU held a 7-6 edge in shots after one half, while West Virginia held a 3-2 corner kick advantage.
The Mountaineer defense withstood a flurry of pressure in the second half to keep the Nittany Lions off the board. Butler finished with four saves and midfielder Ashtin Larkin and McCarthy came up with huge team saves in the 78th minute.
PSU Forward Christine Narim led all players with seven shots, including several from long distance.
Penn State added more offense by pushing numbers forward with 20 minutes left on the clock. The decision paid off with as two crosses were sent across the mouth of the box with no result and a scoring opportunity in the 72nd minute.
PSU forward Hayley Brock took the ball up the right side and served a ball into the box where midfielder Taylor Schram’s header from six yards out went high of the crossbar.
West Virginia’s best look of the second half came on a Rodriguez shot in the 76th minute. Mischler flicked on a ball to the back side where Rodrigeuz’s one-timer sailed wide of the right post.
Rodriguez led the Mountaineers with three shot attempts while recording her seventh assist of the season.
Penn State finished with a 17-8 shot advantage and 5-3 edge in corker kicks, while ending its season at 11-9-1.
The Mountaineers are 7-3 in their last 10 NCAA matches and have now beaten Penn State in five of their last six meetings.
The victory avenged a 2-1 loss to Penn State in the season opener for both teams.
West Virginia, the No. 3 seed, now awaits a match with No. 2 seed Boston College. The Eagles advanced to the “Sweet 16” for the third consecutive season with a 3-1 home victory over Hofstra at Newton Soccer Field.
Game time and location will be announced on Monday.