MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — No. 7 West Virginia needed penalty kicks to edge Rutgers in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday night at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
West Virginia (16-3-3) advanced to the round of 32 for the first time since 2010. A crowd of 1,610 was on hand, the fifth-largest crowd ever at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
“One of the pieces when you get home-field advantage is getting a big crowd behind us,” said coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. “The crowd was unbelievable. I would love to take this opportunity to tell them. All of that gold and blue was just unbelievable tonight, and I believe that spirit just pushed us a bit.”
Scoreless through 90 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute sudden-death overtimes, the Big 12 Conference champion Mountaineers made their first three penalty kicks, while denying all three of the Scarlet Knights’ (13-4-5) attempts.
WVU outshot Rutgers 26-17, and earned a 9-7 advantage on shots on-goal.
“I don’t think this was our best performance,” Izzo-Brown said. “Great teams find a way to win these types of games.”
Held scoreless in regulation for only the second time all season, West Virginia looked to its leaders in the first two rounds of penalty kicks, as senior forward Frances Silva and freshman defender Kadeisha Buchanan netted goals. Up 2-0, junior defender Jess Crowder’s conversion of the Mountaineers’ third attempt proved golden.
West Virginia senior goalkeeper Sara Keane made two saves on the Rutgers’ first two attempts, and forced Jonelle Filigno’s third PK wide.
Keane finished the night in net with seven saves.
“Our coaches did a great job scouting them,” Keane said of the Scarlet Knights. “Their last few games went into penalty kicks, so we sort of had an advantage there. I just trusted my gut.”
West Virginia’s best opportunity of the first half came in the 17th minute. Ashley Lawrence, Kelsie Maloney and Amanda Hill all took shots from inside the box, but the Rutgers defense held strong, blocking two away, and forcing the third wide of the net.
The Mountaineers controlled possession for most of the first half. West Virginia had 16 shots to just five from Rutgers after the first 45, while also putting six shots on-goal to the Scarlet Knights’ three.
Rutgers found the head of Brianne Reed off a corner in the 69th minute. Reed headed the shot on goal, but a diving Keane deflected the attempt over the crossbar.
Maloney had a great opportunity in the 88th minute for WVU. She took a deep cross from sophomore Cari Price just outside the box. Maloney, also a sophomore, put one touch on the ball and cut inside, but Rutgers keeper Jessica Janosz made a diving save near the far post.
Janosz finished with nine saves tonight.
Silva had a quality try late in the second overtime frame, ripping a shot from the top of the box in the 105th minute, but it went just wide.
The Mountaineers return to action on Friday at No. 1-seeded Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. Kick between the Mountaineers and the No. 4-ranked Hookies is set for 6 p.m.
“I think that we are a good team when it comes to big games like this,” said Silva of the matchup at Virginia Tech. “There’s a reason we’ve won so many games over the past 10 years over top-10 opponents. As long as we stay focused and do what our coaching staff tells us to do – they come up with great game plans every time – and everyone plays within themselves, we have a good shot against them.”