For 1st time in its history WVU women open as top ranked team

From West Virginia University Athletic Department report…

For the first time in program history, the West Virginia University women’s soccer team will open a season ranked No. 1 nationally, as the Mountaineers own the top spot in the 2017 United Soccer Coaches NCAA Division I Women National Preseason Ranking.

The Mountaineers earned their first national No. 1 ranking in 2016 and held the position for eight weeks. After qualifying for its first NCAA College Cup, WVU finished the year ranked No. 2 nationally.

RELATED: WVU women rally to draw Duquesne in final friendly of spring season

The Mountaineers return to action following their most successful season in 21 years. In addition to the national runner-up finish, WVU posted a nation- and program-best 23 wins and 18 shutouts and swept the Big 12 Conference titles for the third time in four years.

After WVU wrapped up the spring season with a 2-2 draw at Duquesne in late April, I had a chance to catch up with head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown at Rooney Field about the upcoming season.

“This is easily one of our toughest schedules ever,” Izzo-Brown said.

“I believe that this returning group is ready for the challenge. I’m looking forward to seeing how this team embraces these opportunities.”

“We have been a good program for some time now, so the target is going to be on our backs.  It’s been a good spring, and we’re really looking forward to the Fall season now.”

Fifteen letterwinners, including nine starters, return for the Mountaineers, led by 2016 NSCAA All-America Second Team honoree Michaela Abam. The forward paced WVU with a career single-season high 33 points (12 G, 9 A), which ranked No. 24 nationally.

One local product who will continue to feature for the Mountaineers will be junior Hannah Abraham (Albert Gallatin).  Abraham, a left-footed outside midfielder/forward was a key player in last year’s National Runner-up finish, scoring four goals and two assists as a sophomore.

Marissa Dezorzi of Yough and member of the Riverhounds Development Academy, will likely be taking a medical redshirt this season as she works her way back from an injury.

The Mountaineers meet Michigan in the first of two exhibitions on Monday, Aug. 7, at 1 p.m., at U-M Soccer Stadium. WVU will then play host to Bowling Green at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 12, at 1 p.m.

Stanford follows WVU at No. 2, while reigning NCAA champion USC ranks No. 3, South Carolina sits at No. 4 and Georgetown ranks No. 5. The Mountaineers open their 2017 campaign against the Hoyas on Friday, Aug. 18, with first kick from Shaw Field in Washington, D.C., set for 4 p.m.

North Carolina ranks No. 6, Florida ranks No. 7 and BYU follows at No. 8. UCLA and Auburn round out the top 10. 

In total, four of WVU’s 2017 opponents are preseason ranked, with Virginia sitting at No. 11, Duke following at No. 12 and Oklahoma trailing No. 16.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing my exclusive, full length interview with coach  Brown as part of our #PghSoccer film series. 

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