The No. 1-ranked West Virginia University women’s soccer team’s historic run came to an end in the 2016 NCAA Women’s College Cup Final with a 3-1 loss to No. 7 USC on Sunday afternoon in front of 6,612 fans at Avaya Stadium.
The Mountaineers (23-2-2, 8-0) advanced to the College Cup for the first time in team history, winning a program-record 23 games in the process, tied for the most in Big 12 Conference history. The team reached the College Cup after a 1-0 victory over No. 6 North Carolina on Friday.
“First, I’d like to congratulate USC on being the National Champions. It was an incredible game, and their team obviously battled,” Mountaineer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “I’m so proud of the way my team put together a great performance after going down a goal early. I thought we did a great job battling back and creating opportunities. This sport is cruel, and I thought we created some great opportunities. At the end of the day, we didn’t finish, and USC did. “
The Mountaineers bounced back after USC scored in the match’s second minute. Following the score, WVU controlled the ball throughout the first half, and senior midfielder Ashley Lawrence scored in the 66th minute to tie the score at 1-1 against the Trojans (19-4-2, 8-2-1 Pac 12). USC answered with goals in the 75th and 87th minutes.
WVU had 21 shots, nine on-goal, while USC recorded eight shots, five on-goal. Freshman Rylee Foster made two saves, while USC’s Sammy Prudhomme stopped eight.
Sophomore forward Sh’Nia Gordon led WVU with four shots, two on-goal, while junior forward Michaela Abam and junior defender Amandine Pierre-Louis each had three shots. Gordon, Pierre-Louis and junior forward Heather Kaleiohi all had two shots on-goal.
WVU finished with a 9-1 edge in corner kicks.
Today was the final collegiate match for seniors Carly Black, Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Woolpert and Lawrence.
“One the biggest components to this season is to celebrate what an incredible group of seniors we had leading this team,” Izzo-Brown added. “We couldn’t have earned these 23 wins without our incredible senior leadership.”
WVU’s goal came off the foot of Lawrence, her fourth of the season. The play began with sophomore defender Easther Mayi Kith, who sent the ball to Lawrence. The senior dribbled to the edge of the box near the left corner, where she connected just inside the left post.
The goal evened the score at 1-1, but USC scored the next two. The Trojans regained the lead in the 75th minute on a goal by Katie Johnson from the top of the box. USC extended the advantage to 3-1 in the 87th minute, with Johnson again converting from outside the box.
The Mountaineers fell behind early, as USC capitalized on the first corner kick just 82 seconds into the match. After playing the ball in, it bounced up to the top of the box. Savannah Levin played it forward, and senior midfielder Morgan Andrews immediately headed it toward the left post, away from Foster.
After the goal, WVU absolutely dominated play, outshooting the Trojans 10-3 in the first half.
Gordon played at a second level in the first 45, taking four shots, with two on-goal. The Ocklawaha, Florida, native used her speed to beat a Trojan defender in the 27th minute, but Prudhomme dove to the left post to stop her look from five-yards out.
Less than four minutes later, sophomore forward Grace Cutler had her own quality look. Pierre-Louis got the chance started, sending the ball in from 15-yards out. Prudhomme pushed it away, but Cutler was there for the redirection. Her shot from three-yards out was stopped at the goal line.
Gordon’s last chance of the half was simply stunning. With less than 10 seconds remaining, sophomore defender Bianca St. Georges ran up on the ball and put it into the box. Gordon was posted in front of Prudhomme and took a shot with her back to the net, but the Trojan goalkeeper saved it for her fourth stop of the half.
“Obviously, Sammy Jo did her job tonight, with us creating 21 shots, nine on-goal, and nine corner kicks,” Izzo-Brown said. “You got to really praise what she was able to do. I thought we were incredible in moments to create chances, and she did a great job in keeping us to one (goal).”
The Mountaineers continued to dominate play to start the second half. In the opening seven minutes, Pierre-Louis had the first chance just minutes in, but her cross was halted by Prudhomme. On another nice cross into the box in the 51st minute, Gordon and Abam both had looks, but neither could connect to even the score.
A minute later following a WVU corner kick, junior midfielder Alli Magaletta got her head on a cross, but the attempt went wide.
West Virginia’s chances continued in the 57th minute, when Abam flicked the ball into the box. St. Georges ran it down, but couldn’t connect before the ball went out.
The Mountaineers had another chance off a corner kick in the 64th minute, but Prudhomme again halted the opportunity.
Then it was Lawrence, who evened the match at 1-1 in the 66th minute. Less than 10 minutes later, USC regained the advantage at 2-1.
West Virginia continued to apply pressure though, but the Mountaineers could not connect and find the back of the net. Their best chance came in the 81st minute, when junior midfielder Carla Portillo found Kaleiohi inside the box, but the shot was saved.
Pierre-Louis had two chances on long balls in the 83rd and 84th minutes, but both shots were saved.
USC extended its lead to 3-1 in the 87th minute.
With the win, USC pushes its all-time series advantage to 2-0.
Of note, Lawrence, Gordon and Foster were named to the All-Tournament Team. Buchanan was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player on Defense.