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Pair of second-half goals lift WVU over Virginia Tech and into NCAA second round

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s late-season surge continued Sunday afternoon at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium as the Mountaineers advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 2-0 win over Virginia Tech.

Head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown claimed her 25th NCAA Tournament victory and the Mountaineers have earned a trip to Penn State to face the Nittany Lions next weekend.

“This team has stepped up at big moments. Every individual is doing their job, similar to what Aria [Bilal] did for us today. We’re super-excited to get another look at Penn State Friday night,” Izzo-Brown said.

After the Mountaineers played through a scoreless first half, WVU broke the stalemate in the 49th minute. Dilary Heredia-Beltran sent a cross into the Virginia Tech box. A redirect from AJ Rodriguez went off the post but sophomore Aria Bilal scored her first goal as a Mountaineer, pouncing on the rebound.

“I just saw the ball and I just was going to run through it. We’ve been working at practice on one-time finishing. I knew I didn’t have time to take two. Because every time in the game they were coming at us with three people,” Bilal said.

Leading by a goal, West Virginia (11-4-7) continued to push for a second tally. They got it in the 81st minute. Jordan Brewster’s free kick was controlled in the box by Taylor White. She threaded a pass in traffic to Isabel Loza. Loza sent a shot past the keeper to seal the victory.

“We knew that if we gave them half a chance, they had the ability to finish. So we really needed that insurance goal,” Izzo-Brown said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it earlier. But it is the resilience of this team and the ability for them to put a great team like Virginia Tech away.”

Kayza Massey made a pair of saves in the Mountaineer net to preserve the shutout.

After a slow start to the season, West Virginia has won six consecutive matches and they are unbeaten in their last eight contests.

“I knew the potential of this team. Sometimes the soccer gods have to be on your side a little bit. For me, it is just continuing to grind and have them believe in themselves and stay in our routine. This is what they were capable of doing. I am so excited that this group gets to feel this,” Izzo-Brown said.

WVU travels to Penn State to face the Nittany Lions Friday at 4:30 p.m. PSU defeated the Mountaineers 2-0 on August 25. The winner of that match will face the winner of the Xavier/Virginia match on November 20.

“As we know, we are either going to have to go Penn State, Virginia, Georgetown. We have a lot of respect for Penn State and what they do. Obviously, seeing them earlier and having them beat us, it is great opportunity for us to play another top-level team and see now where we’re at and how we match up,” Izzo-Brown said.

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