West Virginia University women’s soccer team was selected to finish first in the 2021 Big 12 Soccer Preseason Poll, as announced by the conference on Wednesday.
Earning the top spot in the Big 12 poll for the eighth time in the last nine seasons, the Mountaineers received five first-place votes and 74 points to edge defending regular-season champion TCU by one point (73). Oklahoma State (64), Texas Tech (56) and Texas (52) rounded out the top five.
The conference poll was based on the votes of the league’s 10 head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
Additionally, the Mountaineers debuted at No. 12 in the United Soccer Coaches Preseason NCAA Division I Women’s Top 25. They join two other Big 12 schools in the preseason rankings. Defending Big 12 champion TCU leads the conference at No. 8, while Oklahoma State is slotted No. 16 in the national poll. Women’s College Cup finalist Florida State tops the rankings, while defending National Champion Santa Clara comes in at No. 2.
In all, five of WVU’s 2021 opponents are ranked in the poll: No. 4 Virginia, No. 8 TCU, No. 10 Penn State, No. 11 Georgetown and No. 16 Oklahoma State.
West Virginia is coming off a 10-3-1 overall mark in 2020-21, including a 7-2-0 record in conference play. The Mountaineers also earned their 21st consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament, good for the fifth-longest active streak in the country. The team returns 14 letterwinners from last season, as well as 10 starters. In all, WVU has claimed nine total Big 12 titles (five regular season, four tournament) since joining the league in 2012.
The 2021 edition is led by longtime coach Nikki Izzo-Brown, who has been the program’s only coach in 25 years, accumulating an impressive 352-119-55 overall record and a 146-44-23 conference mark that includes 10 regular-season titles and seven tournament championships, including the 2018 Big 12 Soccer Championship title.
This year’s Mountaineer roster includes a few key players from Western Pennsylvania, namely redshirt junior Mackenzie Aunkst (Penn-Trafford/Beadling SC), freshman Rhea Kijowski (Waynesburg Central) and senior forward Alina Stahl (Baldwin/Beadling SC).
Stahl has been one of the leading scorers for the Mountaineers in her sophomore and junior seasons, as she’s amassed 16 goals and 6 assists in her first three seasons in Morgantown.
WVU opens its 26th season of competition against Buffalo on Thursday, August 19. Kickoff at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in Morgantown is set for 5 p.m. ET.