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West Virginia maintains early lead in 1-0 win over Georgetown

Michaela Abam will be a player to watch for WVU in their 2017 season opener. (photo courtesy WVU Women’s Soccer)

The West Virginia Mountaineers opened their 2017 season with a 1-0 win on the road against Georgetown. WVU entered the match as the No. 1 team in the nation, although they faced a strong opponent in the No 5 Hoyas. That resulted in a low-scoring affair, with Michaela Abam’s goal in the 11th minute the difference maker for the 2016 College Cup runners-up.

The biggest question surrounding West Virginia at the start of the season was how their defense would look following the departure of star center back Kadeisha Buchanan. The defense did struggle against a Georgetown attack that put twice as many shots on goal, but the Mountaineers were able to prevent the Hoyas from finishing any of their chances on goal to secure the win.

There’s definitely some kinks for Nikki Izzo-Brown’s back line to iron out, but keeper Rylee Foster, starting off her sophomore campaign in net for the Mountaineers, had another superb performance in net to help WVU earn their first win of the season. The Cambridge, Ontario native was out for revenge against the team that handed her her first loss as WVU’s starting goalkeeper, a 1-0 double-overtime defeat last September. That would be the last loss Foster suffered until the Mountaineers were upset, 3-1, by the USC Trojans in the 2016 NCAA College Cup Final.

“That goal I look back to every single time. It was one of my only goals of the season. Looking back on it, I definitely want to take Georgetown on as a way to start the season off strong and base my sophomore year on that,” Foster told Todd Murray of The Dominion Post ahead of Friday’s season opener.

Foster was able to do exactly as intended, stopping every one of Georgetown’s attempts on goal to start 2017 by putting last season’s ghosts to rest. And it wasn’t easy. Despite West Virginia starting out as the stronger attacking side, the Hoyas were able to swing the momentum in their favor midway through the opening half and never relinquished it. Foster made seven saves in the game, her second-best single-game performance for the Mountaineers, to earn her first clean sheet of the season and ninth of her college career.

Foster’s performance in goal prevented Georgetown from getting on the board, but it was senior forward Michaela Abam on the other end of the field who earned the win for the visitors. West Virginia entered the game offense-heavy, with Abam, who scored double-digit goals in each of her last two seasons, heading in a shot from inside the box in the contest’s second minute, although she put it just wide. She struck again in the 11th minute, this time finishing off a header to give WVU the lead. That goal came off a textbook cross from Sh’Nia Gordon, which Abam leapt into the air to get on the end of, heading it past Georgetown goalkeeper Arielle Schechtman.

The Mountaineers were able to hold onto the lead but not the momentum, as Georgetown became the more dangerous side about 25 minutes into the contest. Rachel Corboz and Caitlin Farrell combined with a number of opportunities for the Hoyas, including one in which Easther Mayi Keth made a goal-line clearance to deny Corboz’s shot, only to have another defender block the rebound shot from Farrell. Jenna Menta, who entered the game late in the first half, was especially aggressive, putting three shots on frame—one from the left and two from the right side—inside of three minutes, forcing Foster to make a back-to-back stops to prevent her from pulling the Hoyas level.

Those three continued pestering Foster throughout the second half, but Farrell was especially dangerous in the attacking third. In the 54th minute, she slipped through the Mountaineer defense and took a shot from just inside the six, but Foster was able to bat the shot away. She then connected with redshirt sophomore Amanda Carolan, who put a shot on target, only to be denied once again by the WVU keeper. In the 78th minute, Menta played the ball to Farrell on the far side of the field, but Farrell’s resulting shot went into the side of the net.

West Virginia nearly doubled their lead in the final minutes of the match when Heather Kaleiohi sent a shot through traffic, but Schechtman, who took a step to the left expecting Kaleiohi to send her shot that way, was just able to change direction and stretch out in time to get her hand in front of the shot, preventing the senior from joining Abam on the score sheet.

Georgetown will look to almost immediately bounce back from today’s disappointment when they take George Washington at 1 p.m. Sunday, August 20 (FoxSportsGo). The Mountaineers will look to continue their winning ways on Thursday, August 24 when they return home to Morgantown to face the No. 11 Virginia Cavaliers at 7 p.m. ET.

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