High School Football
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Entering 25th season at WVU, Nikki Izzo-Brown ready to adapt to changes

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Coming off of an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance last fall and with an experienced team returning, veteran WVU head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown was looking forward to the developmental aspects of their spring season.

That spring season, which included a handful of exhibition games, never got off the ground.

“We were closing shop to go on to spring break,” Izzo-Brown said. “And then the following week we were going to play the Carolina Courage, the world champions in the NWSL. We were in our spring season which is a high level of our development. It was really disappointing obviously.

“Our spring season is a lot about our team concept but also individual concepts. I really miss maximizing our athletes’ potential and really developing them. That’s what really motivates me as a coach.”

Izzo-Brown’s players are scattered in various parts of North America and Europe. Five players on the returning roster are from Canada, two are from England and one is from Spain. Athletes have various levels of access to training facilities and workout equipment. The delay in formal training and team competition poses a concern.

“You move into the summer months and these kids can’t play right now. Some of them don’t have any access to weights or anything like that. Then you move to last week in the Bundesliga, the German professional league. They were the first ones in soccer to kickoff. And they had so many injuries.

“None of our kids have had contact. We are a contact sport as much as we don’t like to say we are, we are a contact sport.”

The traditional fall preseason window for women’s soccer usually lasts a little over two weeks starting in early August and contains a pair of scrimmage matches.

“I know my kids would say, ‘I don’t care coach. We could train for two days and we just want to go’. I have never really had to look at that.”

A pair of April additions to the roster figure to compete for playing time right away. Connecticut native Jessica Kasacek will be part of a goalkeeping tandem that looks to replace four-year starter Rylee Foster. And Cabell Midland grad Emilee Charles is a two-time state player of the year selection.

“Losing Rylee, we only had one other goalkeeper. That was first and foremost one of our biggest gets.¬†We feel with Jess, coming from Connecticut and the experience she had at that high level, it is definitely a great opportunity for us.

“It is always important for me to have kids from our state. Emilee Charles has not only has gotten it done on the playing field, but she is an incredible student. Both are going to be a great representation of our team.”

With spring practices cancelled and the prospect of a shortened preseason in play, Izzo-Brown could anticipate expanding her normal in-game rotation and lineups as players ramp up to game condition.

“We need a big roster this year. We need to make sure that every kid, every soldier is ready. That’s definitely something I have been thinking about. Tactics might be a bit different in moments.”

Kadeisha Buchanan (left) and Ashley Lawrence (right) are mainstays on the Canada National team.

Keeping up with the Canadians

Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence helped guide the Mountaineers to the NCAA National Championship match in 2016 and they have been mainstays on Canada’s national team for World Cup and Olympic squads. Both play for club teams in France. Canada qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games by finishing second in the CONCACAF tournament in February. The Olympics have been postponed until 2021.

“Ashley did stay in France. She didn’t come home right away. Kadeisha got back to Canada. That was really important for her to get home. In a nutshell, we talked about the letdown of the Olympics. We talked about how they are doing their workouts and their motivation.”

Izzo-Brown believes that fellow WVU graduates Rylee Foster and Bianca St. Georges could be in the mix for spots on the Canada Olympic roster as well.

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