Lawrence Leads Mountaineers to Demolition of Dukes

15th ranked West Virginia Women’s Soccer outclassed Duquesne 5-0 in front of an atmospheric Morgantown crowd at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. Women’s World Cup goal scorer Ashley Lawrence proved too much for the Dukes’ defense as the Canadian’s goal and assist led her team to an impressive home debut.

Lawrence facilitated the opening goal by playing a pass that sent Kailey Utley in on goal. Utley coolly finished past Duquesne keeper Vanessa Perdomo in the third minute for her third goal of the season.

Lawrence then wrapped up the scoring during a sudden downpour that greeted the start of the second half. The junior from Toronto was able to spot Nia Gordon’s cross among the heavy rain and put the empathic stamp on the match.

The win completed a much-needed dominant weekend by the Mountaineers after beginning their season by falling to ninth ranked Virginia Tech at the Hoosier Classic in Bloomington, Indiana. West Virginia responded to that loss by defeating a tough Maryland team 1-0 on the road last Friday. The annihilation of Duquesne secured their top 15 standing before a heavyweight matchup with sixth ranked Penn State next Friday in Morgantown.

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West Virginia quickly built upon the opening goal a minute later when the freshman Gordon held off a Duquesne defender to finish Carla Portillo’s through ball.

Utley was unleashed again on the left side by Lawrence on 16 minutes, but this time the senior squared to Michaela Abam who capped off the well-worked goal.

The Mountaineer’s musket ceased firing for the first half when on 28 minutes a galloping right-sided run by Amandine Pierre-Louis led her past the Dukes’ back line. Quebec’s Pierre-Louis had plenty of time to flick into the lower left corner.

The rain combined with Mountaineers head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown resting her stars Lawrence and Women’s World Cup Young Player Award winner Kadeisha Buchanan contributed to a slower second half. Most of the West Virginia faithful persevered the weather to see out the win and sing “Country Roads” afterwards.

Duquesne suffered a reality check after spirits were high from winning the Steel City Classic last weekend. Head coach Al Alvine will struggle to find any positives from the drubbing with his team on the back foot for the full 90 minutes. One bright spot was goalkeeper Kyra Murphy who replaced Perdomo in the second half to offer some damage control. The freshman compiled on a solid Steel City Classic by making some late saves that kept the Mountaineers at five.

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Preparing to Pounce

The 2015 season for Pitt Women’s Soccer began with Head Coach Greg Miller barking instructions. “Higher! Higher!” he shouted to encourage his girls to press up the field and play a fast-paced style of soccer.

This high-intensity focus shows that Miller is aware that expectations are now attached to this program. Pitt picked up their first ACC victories last season by beating Syracuse and North Carolina State back-to-back on the road. It proved that the Panthers could be competitive in the best soccer conference. Now Miller urges them forward to their next step.

Pitt Women kicked off that next step last weekend in the Steel City Classic at Duquesne University’s Rooney Field. The team impressed with their high-pressure style and produced a barrage of shots on their opponents’ goal. Saint Francis’s German goalkeeper Romina Kunze contributed to a disappointing 1-1 draw however in Pitt’s opener. Kunze recorded 26 saves after the Panthers set a program record with 31 shots on goal, failing to convert those chances into a win.

Those chances came good last Sunday when the Panthers dominated Robert Morris in a 6-0 victory. Miller reaped the rewards of his pressing as his team trapped Robert Morris in their defensive zone for the entire match. The Panthers passed the ball around the midfield quickly and fluidly. Pitt’s well-worked possession kept them in dangerous scoring positions and made the finishing practically automatic. Jarena Harmon found herself in the right spaces and notched a hat trick that started her freshman season in emphatic fashion. Pitt’s total control wasn’t enough though to win the Steel City Classic as Duquesne’s two wins saw them take the title away from their Forbes Avenue rivals.

The Panthers showed clear progress even though they couldn’t repeat as Steel City Classic champions. The biggest storyline going into the season for Pitt was how they were going to replace senior defenders Jaclyn Poucel and Riliegh McHugh who for so long were rock solid in the back line. That transition seams to be flawless so far as their replacements Seyla Perez and captain Siobhan McDonough made the all-tournament team. A fluke Saint Francis goal by Allison LaDuke was the only significant chance to get behind Perez all weekend. McDonough provided versatility in her new position on the right flank by joining the attack while still remaining strong in defense.

Miller also continues to add the talent that will integrate them into the ACC. The four-year head coach built upon a highly touted 2014 recruiting class by bringing in a group of freshmen that have instantly contributed. Harmon and Sarah Krause bring speed to the squad and along with senior Roosa Arvas make a formidable front three. Juliana Vazquez also looks to be a creative presence in the midfield that keeps the team’s fluidity.

Miller has constructed a core of young players that he hopes will close the gap between his team and the ACC powerhouses. This weekend proved that the Panthers are developing fast and prepared to take the challenge awaiting them head on. It won’t be really known if they can meet expectations until September 20th when they open ACC play against North Carolina State.

Debutants Lift Duquesne to Classic Title

Duquesne Women’s Soccer can claim to be the most captivating team of the weekend as well after 2-0 and 3-0 victories against Robert Morris and Saint Francis respectively. Freshmen Katie O’Connor and Kristen Kostopoulous efforts up front carried the Dukes to the tournament trophy on their home soil. The high school All-American O’Connor looks to be a budding star as opposing defenders found it impossible to stop her combination of speed and strength. O’Connor tallied the opening goal in the Robert Morris win and her endless energy pushed her teammate Kostopoulous towards two goals in the decisive result against Saint Francis.CNIMOSuWgAQ0F1t

The newcomers will have their first real collegiate test next Sunday when they battle FIFA Women’s World Cup Young Player Award winner Kadeisha Buchanan and her West Virginia defense in Morgantown.