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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Second Season

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The second season begins for the West Virginia University women’s soccer team this weekend. The 15th-rated Mountaineers take on Villanova in a Big East tournament quarterfinal game at Villanova Soccer Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 30.

Senior Marisa Kanela leads the team in scoring with six goals and 19 points. She had a pair of goals in last Sunday's 3-0 win at Providence.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks

The winner will advance to the Big East tournament semifinals to be played at Marquette’s Valley Fields, on Friday, Nov. 4, at 5 pm CT.

West Virginia has enjoyed considerable success in Big East tournament play advancing to the finals twice, but the Mountaineers have had a difficult time with the Wildcats, losing twice to Villanova last year and getting knocked out of the Big East tournament on a penalty-kick shootout in 2003. West Virginia is just 3-4-4 in 11 meetings against the Wildcats.

WVU senior Marisa Kanela says Villanova’s defensive styles makes them a difficult team to play against.

“They pack it in,” she said. “We’re going to have to attack from the wings.”

Kanela is the best offensive player on a West Virginia team that has struggled to score goals against a very difficult schedule this season. During one stretch of games from Aug. 28 to Sept. 23, the Mountaineers managed just four goals while producing a 2-3-3 record.

According to Kanela, it was at that point in the season that West Virginia coach Nikki Izzo-Brown decided to change her attack in order to get more scoring production.

“She had to tweak things and she moved a lot of people around to get more scoring,” Kanela said. “We were playing a lot of our matches in the middle of the field.”

The senior believes the team is also maturing at the right time. West Virginia is fielding an extremely young lineup with four freshmen among its 11 starters.

“They’ve played a lot of soccer but college soccer is a lot different,” Kanela said of the team’s highly touted group of freshmen. “I think they’re starting to play well with the older players.”

Kanela illustrates her point: “Amanda Cicchini is great from the 18s but is a little hesitant attacking the goal, so I’ve gone to the goal a little more this year because I know she’s going to be back behind me,” Kanela said.

The Mountaineers (10-4-3) were able to get three goals in a shutout win over St. John’s and have outscored their opponents 17-4 down the stretch to win seven of their last eight regular season matches, including a 2-0 triumph over then-No. 6-rated Marquette.

Kanela, who leads the team with six goals and seven assists for a team-high 19 points, believes West Virginia’s tough early-season schedule playing Virginia, Tennessee and Portland outside of the conference has prepared it for post-season play.

“We’ve played a really tough schedule and we’ve been in every match this year,” said the Wantagh, N.Y., resident. “We held Portland scoreless until the 72nd minute and they’re probably going to be in the Final Four this year.”

Kanela says Villanova has a pair of “really fast” forwards and an outstanding goalkeeper Jillian Loyden. She is giving up an average of 0.40 goals per game to rank third in the Big East behind WVU’s Lana Bannerman and South Florida’s Tiffany Hansen.

The Wildcats (9-3-4) are one spot behind West Virginia in the Mid-Atlantic Regional rankings at No. 4 and are probably headed back to the NCAA tournament, where it reached the Sweet 16 two years ago.

Kanela knows this Sunday is going to be a battle of contrasting styles.

“It will be a battle of wills,” she said. “But they’ve won a Big East championship with this style and went to the Sweet 16 so it works.”

West Virginia, on the other hand, is looking to return to the Big East finals for the first time since losing at Connecticut 1-0 in 2002. The Mountaineers have been to the NCAA tournament in each of the last five seasons.


  • West Virginia is one of four Big East teams nationally ranked this week in both polls. In the NSCAA/adidas poll Notre Dame is seventh, Marquette is 13th, Connecticut is 16th and West Virginia is 18th. Notre Dame is sixth, Connecticut 10th, Marquette 11th and West Virginia 16th in the Soccer America poll.

    West Virginia has been ranked every week by either the NSCAA or Soccer America. The Mountaineers have been nationally ranked 39 of the last 41 weeks.

  • West Virginia has won at least 10 matches in a season for six straight years. WVU’s record during that stretch is an impressive 105-34-7 and the Mountaineers are the ninth winningest program in the country since 2000.
  • West Virginia’s defense is ranked third in the Big east giving up just 12 goals in 17 matches. WVU, with eight shutouts, ranks third in the conference and 21st in the country in goals against average (0.68).
  • Sunday’s Big East quarterfinal match will be WVU’s first on the road in tournament play since West Virginia lost 5-0 at Notre Dame in 1998. The Mountaineers are 9-10-1 all-time in Big East tournament play (WVU’s loss to Villanova in the 2003 Big East tournament on penalty kicks is entered into the record books as a tie).
  • Only six different West Virginia players have scored more than two goals this year, led by Kanela’s six. Ashley Banks and Deana Everett have scored four each, Rachael Minnich has scored three, and Kiley Harris and Kim Bonilla have score two each. The Mountaineers have scored 24 goals this season compared to 26 by Villanova. Seven of those 26 goals came in one game against Vermont.
  • Junior goal keeper Lana Bannerman is one shutout shy of the school record of 24 shutouts set by Stacey Adams in 1998. Bannerman leads the Big East in both shutout and goals against average.
  • The Wildcats are making their sixth straight Big East tournament appearance and 11th postseason appearance overall. Villanova coach Ann Clifton owns a 110-56-23 record in nine seasons there.
  • Because of the addition of five new teams this year, the Big East soccer tournament has been expanded to a 10-team, four-round format. The top three teams in each division earn first-round byes and the semifinal and championship-round games will be played at Marquette. CSTV will televise both semifinal games live and the championship game will be televised in select Big East regional outlets.
  • Villanova will provide live video and statistical coverage of Sunday’s Big East quarterfinal match on its web site
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