Champions Again!

West Virginia women's soccer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown bent down onto one knee as ice-cold water poured over her head for the second straight season. She needed a few seconds to realize what her team had just achieved.

The Mountaineers are the first team in WVU history to win back-to-back Big East Conference tournament titles. They defeated Louisville 2-0 on Sunday at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium to take home the gold, cup-shaped trophy.

"It takes a special team to win back-to-back championships in this league. This team is unbelievably special," Izzo-Brown said. "You work hard for the players, the University, the state, and it kind of overwhelms you when all your hard work pays off for the athlete and they get to experience a championship."

Izzo-Brown has now led WVU to three Big East tournament titles in five years – something that only Notre Dame had done. The Mountaineers have now won six straight Big East tournament games dating back to last year's championship run.

"That stat overwhelms me a little bit, because you always perform in the moment … and sometimes you don't reflect back at times about what this program has done," Izzo-Brown said. "Stats and awards and championships talk for themselves … so if we're winning three in five years, that's pretty damn good."

Senior defender Erica Henderson has been part of all three Big East titles.

"It's exciting, and it's something that I take pride in," Henderson said. "Each one was different … Winning it in front of West Virginia fans is huge. Looking up in the stands and seeing blue and gold everywhere was amazing."

WVU now assures itself an NCAA tournament bid for the 12th straight year under Izzo-Brown. The team will have to wait until tomorrow to find out its seed in the tournament and which opponent the Mountaineers will play.

It's likely WVU will play on Saturday at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium, however.

"Hosting in the first round of the NCAAs is going to be huge," Henderson said. "We're used to our field and we love our fans."

WVU received an early goal in the 28th minute, which would be the decisive score, as the Mountaineers were solid defensively once again throughout the entire contest.

The Mountaineers got a nice forward push, as junior midfielder Bri Rodriguez found freshman forward Kate Schwindel, the Big East's Freshman of the Year, on the left flank. Schwindel was pulled down inside the box and a foul was called creating a penalty kick.

Senior forward Blake Miller hit the kick low-left, and it slipped past Louisville keeper Chloe Kiefer for the goal to put the Mountaineers up 1-0. It was the eighth straight game with a point for Miller, who has 10 games on the season and 33 for her career - the fifth-best total in program history.

"It's great to go out with a bang, and being it's my senior year it's exciting," Miller said.

WVU struck again in the 50th minute, as defender Bry McCarthy beat her defender down the left wing and crossed the pass to sophomore forward Frances Silva inside the box that found Silva's foot who put it into the back of the net past Kiefer to go up 2-0.

WVU shut down the Big East's Offensive Player of the Year, Louisville's Christine Exeter. She had just one shot.

"We had a gameplan and went out an executed it. There was nothing that we didn't expect," McCarthy said. "As a team, we did a really good job of shutting down what we knew was going to happen."

WVU goalkeeper Sarah Keane made five stops in the game.

Miller was named Most Outstanding Offensive Player of the tournament. McCarthy was named Most Outstanding Defensive Player. Keane, McCarthy, Miller, Schwindel and Silva were named to the all-tournament team.

A crowd of 1,550 watched the WVU victory, which was the fourth-largest crowd to see a women's game at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.

"If we brought a little pleasure and happiness to our fans and our state this weekend, it makes me so, so happy," Izzo-Brown said. "You'll never be disappointed, because of the hard work these ladies put out there on the field."


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