Pressure is Privilege
- By Julie Brown
- August 04, 2011 02:50 PM
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Pressure is a privilege: That’s the main theme for this year’s West Virginia University women’s soccer team.
It refers to the BIG EAST Championship title the squad won last year, and the stellar postseason play that had them advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. It also refers to the fact that West Virginia will be hosting the 2011 BIG EAST tournament, offering the team a chance to repeat at home.
“I always look at it as though pressure is a privilege,” explained head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. “It’s not necessarily the pressure to repeat; it’s the expectation to be in our house defending a BIG EAST Championship. It’s definitely pressure, but I also think it’s a privilege to be here and know what the goal is and it sits just across the street from us.”
“We’re really hoping for big things to come,” added Meghan Lewis. “Yes, there’s pressure, but we all know we can do it.”
With a tough BIG EAST schedule looming, the senior defender explained that the team is focusing on some smaller goals right now, such as working hard as a team and staying connected. Achieving those objectives is what will propel the team forward in the right direction.
West Virginia plays its first game, an exhibition at Maryland, in less than a week. With this in mind, the players opened camp Wednesday with determination.
“We played really hard,” Lewis said. “We started off with technique in the first practice and then we opened it up big to see how everyone could play. We worked on technique in the second session also, as well as keeping possession and fast touches and six vs. six which is always good. We’ve been mixing it up with the freshmen and newcomers and we’ve been playing really well off of each other.”
This year’s roster contains 11 freshmen, making the squad very young. With so many newcomers, it’s important for the team to bond and be comfortable around one another.
“First off, we just want them to be comfortable with us,” stated Lewis. “We don’t want to completely scare them so that they’re scared to touch the ball. We had a meeting just yesterday about how we’re all accountable for one another and how each and every single person brings something different to this team. We expect them to strive in that different thing. But of course, that’s going to take time. Being new, you’re obviously nervous when you come to a new team, especially when there are upperclassmen.
“I really do think they feel comfortable, they’ve been here for almost six weeks now so it’s been going really well and they’ve been playing great.”
Returning to the team are eight starters from last year, players that account for 84% of last year’s goals and 89% of last year’s assists.
Additionally, the team returns all four starters from the back line, a factor that proves important with the departure of keeper Kerri Butler to graduation at the end of last season.
“It’s great that we can have every single person back on the back line,” Lewis said. “We all know how each other likes to play, so we can transition well with each other and we know how to communicate with one another and that helps us tremendously. The back line is all about connection and keeping the seams closed so it’s huge for us to return four starters.”
Sara Keane is expected to fill the void at goal, as she currently holds the most experience.
“Keane has the collegiate experience playing all spring and playing some non-competitive games in our non-championship segment so I feel good about that, but it’s going to be a battle,” Izzo-Brown said. “When that ball rolls I have to play the best 11. I think that Kerri Butler earned her position when she was a freshman, but I’m confident in Keane, and I’ve seen some good things from everyone.”
“She’s a great leader in the back for us,” Lewis added. “She sees everything and has a loud voice so when someone’s coming on our blind side we’re aware. She is really confident back there so that helps us stay confident too.”
As preseason training fully gets underway, Lewis believes the team will really come together and build upon its chemistry, which is the foundation for its success.
“We always have hard working players, but I think we’ll be so connected this year seeing as how we got to know each other so well last year,” she said. “We’re always hanging out together and have huge team chemistry, which really comes out onto the field when we play.”
And if last year is any indication of what the team can do with the right chemistry, there’s no limit as to how far this year’s team can go.
West Virginia University women's soccer