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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 9-ranked West Virginia University women’s soccer team returns to the road and travels to Durham, N.C., this weekend for the Duke Nike Classic at Koskinen Stadium.
The Mountaineers (3-0-1) will meet the No. 12-ranked Blue Devils (3-1) on Friday, Sept. 6, at 6 p.m., before facing No. 1 North Carolina (4-0), the defending NCAA champions, on Sunday, Sept. 8, at 11 a.m. Both matches will be the first ever for the Mountaineers against the Atlantic Coast Conference opponents.
“You can’t really have a better tournament than this one,” says 18-year Mountaineer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. “To play these two top opponents that have such traditions of success and great seasons thus far – we’re really going to know where we stand as a team this year after this weekend.
“As I do with tough nonconference schedules every season, we’re going to see where we’re good early and where we need to make improvements. I always think it’s important for us to get great lessons of where we are as a team and where we can get better. I think this weekend will be a great teaching opportunity for us down the road.”
The Mountaineers are 0-0-1 against ranked opponents this season, having played to a 2-2 double-overtime draw at then-No. 2 Penn State in the season-opener on Aug. 23. WVU went 2-0 against top-10 teams last year, defeating No. 1 Stanford, 1-0, and No. 7 Oklahoma State, 1-0. The victory over the Cardinal, the 2011 NCAA champions, was WVU’s first over the nation’s top-ranked team.
“Going into this tournament, we know everyone is going to be fighting for something,” continues Izzo-Brown. “Duke wants our name, and we want theirs. North Carolina is the same way – they want to be No. 1 all season. There’s going to be a lot on the table this weekend – physically, emotionally and from a tactical perspective.”
The Mountaineers enter the weekend following a 2-0 showing in their first homestand of the season at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. The squad trumped Central Michigan, 4-0, on Aug. 30, and downed Morehead State, 2-0, on Sept. 1. Friday’s victory was the 250th career win for Izzo-Brown; her 19-year career record now stands at 251-97-37.
Sophomore defender Cari Price
earned five points on the weekend, including her first two career goals on Friday evening, while senior forward Frances Silva
assisted on two scores Friday and added an insurance goal on Sunday for four points. The Overland Park, Kan., native owns three assists this season, eclipsing her season output from 2012, and has earned at least one point in every contest this year.
Senior goalkeeper Sara Keane
and the WVU defense kept both opponents off the board over the weekend, giving Keane 19 career shutouts, the fifth-best mark in program history.
The Blue Devils enter Friday’s match after scoring two wins at the UNC Nike Classic last weekend. Duke defeated Kennesaw State, 1-0, on Aug. 30, and New Mexico, 1-0, on Sept. 1. Despite posting a school-record 207 points a year ago, Duke has only notched three goals so far this season. The Blue Devils own a 20-1-3 record at Koskinen Stadium dating back to the 2011 season.
“I know Duke is capable of scoring goals,” Izzo-Brown explains. “They have kids in their front six that represent the Under-20 U.S. National Team. This team is more than capable of putting more than three goals on the scoreboard; these are top-level athletes. I’m glad we were able to get two shutouts going into this weekend, because we’re going to face some tough opponents.”
Prior to last weekend’s play, the Blue Devils won on the road at then-No. 12 Texas A&M, 1-0, on Aug. 23, and lost, 1-0, at South Carolina on Aug. 25.
Top-ranked UNC opened the 2013 season with a 2-0 win over then-No. 9 Santa Clara, in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 23. Senior midfielder Crystal Dunn, the 2012 consensus National Player of the Year, scored both second-half goals in the win. The Tar Heels have allowed one goal all season and have scored at least twice in each of their four games.
“Obviously, we’ve always face a tough situation where you play Friday and have to turn around and play Sunday,” Izzo-Brown says. “With some of our younger players having had the experience of last year (playing No. 1-ranked Stanford on a Sunday), we have a great opportunity to rely on that experience to help prepare for the Tar Heels. But, that’s Sunday. Right now, it’s all about the Blue Devils.”