The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

November 18, 2010

WVU to meet Boston College in soccer Sweet 16

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University coach Nikki Izzo-Brown is expecting a “hurricane” when her team travels to New England for a Friday night for a battle against Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament.

“They will be very physical, very organized and, obviously from an emotional standpoint we will be facing a hurricane when we get up to B.C.,” Brown said before the traveling party of 39 from WVU left to continue its journey toward what it hopes will be its first national championship.

At the same time, Marlon LeBlanc’s men’s team was preparing to play at 7 p.m. at Dick Dlesk Stadium today in a men’s first-round game against Xavier.

The weather forecast from LeBlanc was better than the one Izzo-Brown gave.

“We’ve been pretty good at Dick Dlesk this season, winning nine straight,” LeBlanc said. “We’re real pleased we get to play at home another game and have another opportunity to extend our season.”

It won’t be a breeze, of course, at this level, but WVU does hold a 3-1 edge historically in matches against Xavier. The two teams have not played since 1990.

WVU gets a tough opponent, as you would expect playing to advance to the Elite Eight, on its home field.

“We’re going up against a team that made it to the Elite Eight last year,” Izzo-Brown noted, ignoring the fact that they finished sixth in the tough ACC this year while winning 15, losing 6 and tying 1. “They scored 55 goals. Only three teams have shut them out. It’s a high-power offense we will be facing.

“Not only do they have high level college experience, but they also have a couple of players who have also been with our youth national teams so they have a high level of international experience. We know these two are very dynamic and have the capabilities to break down very good defenses.”

Kristen Mewis and Hannah Cerrone both played on USA national teams.

That does not, however, mean that a high-flying WVU team can’t handle them. In fact, the Mountaineers may even negate a strong home-field advantage by knowing that if they win the game they get to come home and host the Elite Eight matchup at Dick Dlesk Stadium.

The Mountaineers are also flying high off winning the Big East Tournament and then beating Penn State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, avenging an early-season loss before this young WVU team came together.

“I think there were a lot of different turning points in the season,” Izzo-Brown said. “Virginia gave us confidence, thinking, ‘We just played the fourth best team in the country here and we beat them.’ And then the Pitt game, I think after that we were like, ‘OK, if we bring it together and do some things we need to go; here we go.’

“And obviously Connecticut was a huge, huge win for us emotionally because of the struggles we’re had with Connecticut. That’s when we knew this team is special and that what we’re doing is working.”

They rode that to a Big East Conference tournament victory.

“After you win a championship, it gives you confidence, but you just can’t put the jersey on and the Big East ring on and hope a trophy will do the job. It won’t. I think they understand that from early on having some losses,” Izzo-Brown said.

“The good part of this team is they are playing with confidence. They realize when everyone is on the same page we’re a tough team to beat. Going into the Big East, where we had to beat UConn a second time and had to beat South Florida, this team said, ‘Wait a minute. If we put it and we bring it, we can beat anybody.’”

And that is how they are approaching this Sweet 16 game on Friday.

Tonight will be West Virginia men’s 10th tournament appearance and first since 2007 when the Mountaineers advanced to the Sweet 16 before losing to eventual national champion Wake Forest, 3-1.

Xavier received an automatic berth following an improbable run through the Atlantic 10 Championship. The No. 6 seed Xavier defeated No. 2 seed LaSalle, 2-0, to bring home the championship.

The Musketeers are a hot team, having defeated the tournament’s top three seeds and currently have a 10-6-4 record.

Xavier is led by first-year head coach Andy Fleming and is paced by Luke Spencer with five goals and three assists for 12 points. In net, Justin Marshall has started 16 games, giving up 15 goals and making 75 saves.

Ticket prices are $7 for adults and $5 for youth and senior citizens. Admission is free for West Virginia University students with a valid student ID.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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