STORRS, Conn. – Blake Miller’s second half goal and a stingy defensive effort guided No. 20 West Virginia to a 2-1 victory at Connecticut Sunday afternoon at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium. West Virginia improves to 9-1-0 in BIG EAST Conference play, while having won 11 of its last 12 matches.
“Both teams were battling and today was a very good win for us,” says coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. “It’s tough to win at UConn and I’m proud of our performance; the ladies really earned it.”
Miller broke a 1-1 match in the 55th minute with her team-leading seventh goal of the season. The senior forward sent a header inside the near post off WVU’s seventh corner kick of match. The corner was created by forward Kate Schwindel who drove a ball off a Huskie defender on the left end line.
Schwindel picked up the assist, the first of two on the day. The two helpers give her five on the season – one shy of Bry McCarthy for the team lead. Schwindel continues her strong play as a true freshman, now totaling four goals and five assists in BIG EAST play.
Connecticut tied the contest quickly into the second half on a goal after a hard collision with WVU center back Drea Barklage going down just beyond midfield. Played continued into the Huskie offensive third where forward Danielle Schulmann served a ball into the middle, finding midfielder Riley Houle who finished a shot from eight yards out.
WVU’s defense went to work in the final 30 minutes to keep Connecticut from getting dangerous. UConn was held to only two shots the entire second half.
“They did a great job of keeping the majority of play in front of them,” says Izzo-Brown. “They were focused and worked extremely hard and off the ball.”
The Mountaineers built a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute on Frances Silva’s sixth goal of the season. Schwindel beat a defender on the left flank and served a perfect low-liner into the middle of the box that UConn goalkeeper Jessica Dulski could not get. Silva stepped in front of a defender and found the back of the net from eight yards out.
Silva has now scored a goal in three-straight matches.
“The trio of Blake, Frances and Kate have been very good lately. And that is what we expect out of our forwards,” said Izzo-Brown.
Goalkeeper Sara Keane was outstanding for the Mountaineers, including a full extension save in the 25th minute. UConn forward Jessica Shufelt ripped a shot from 16 yards out on the left side as Keane dove to her left to snatch the ball out of the air.
Forward Emily Dillon nearly added to WVU’s first half lead on a shot in the 42nd minute. The sophomore forward chased down a ball in the right corner, beat two defenders and sent a hard shot at the near post with Dulski making her second stop of the match.
Midfielder Mallory Smith nearly added an insurance goal with 13 minutes remaining by sending a header just wide of the right post on a Schwindel corner kick.
WVU finished with a 14-8 shot advantage and created a 12-1 corner kick edge.
Miller’s goal marked the 30th of her career, becoming just the sixth player to record 30 goals in a Mountaineer uniform.
The weekend victories move West Virginia to 13-4-0 overall and give the Mountaineers a first round bye in the BIG EAST Championship.
Connecticut drops to 7-7-2 overall, 4-4-2 in league play.
The Mountaineers close out the regular season against BIG EAST rival Pitt on Friday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. On the line is a division championship as WVU is tied with Marquette for first place with 27 points, but holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“We have a lot to play for in the final week of the season,” says Izzo-Brown. “We’ve got the Backyard Brawl next week at Pitt. We’ll go home and get focused on playing a dangerous Pitt team.”