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No. 4 West Virginia women’s soccer edges No. 19 Ohio State 2-1

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (Via West Virginia University) – Pressed to find a second goal with only 20 minutes remaining in regulation, the No. 4-ranked West Virginia University women’s soccer team’s attack answered the challenge, as Hannah Abraham’s header in the 77th minute pushed the Mountaineers to a 2-1 victory over No. 19 Ohio State tonight in front of 1,763 fans at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.

The win came before the fifth-largest crowd at DDSS in WVU women’s soccer history and pushed the Mountaineers’ (5-0-1) home unbeaten streak to 29. WVU handed OSU (5-1) its first defeat of the 2016 season, and the team is now 2-0-1 against ranked opponents and 2-0-1 against teams from the Big Ten Conference.

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“This is huge – we just gave an undefeated Ohio State its first loss of the season,” Mountaineer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “I thought our girls really set the tone tonight. Unfortunately, one shot, one goal by Ohio State. I was proud of our performance. The crowd was amazing – I’m so happy that everyone came out to witness this win.”

With WVU owning 1-0 lead deep into the second half, the Buckeyes capitalized on a misplayed clearance by WVU, as forward Lindsay Agnew stole the ball and beat Mountaineer goalkeeper Rylee Foster one-on-one with a high-placed shot. The score came on the team’s second shot of the night.

The game was not tied for long, and the Mountaineers’ quickly countered. After receiving a nice ball from junior forward Heather Kaleiohi, senior defender Kadeisha Buchanan pushed toward the goal line before attempting a cross. OSU deflected the ball out, setting WVU up for its eighth and final corner kick of the evening. The chance was all the Mountaineers needed, as Carla Portillo’s ball found Michaela Abam’s head. She played the ball up to Abraham, and the sophomore forward immediately directed it toward the near right post for her first goal of the season.

“We were tied up, and we really wanted this win. I just tried to get something on it. I was trying to be like Heather – cleaning up the goals in the box,” Abraham said. “I didn’t even see it go in. I just heard people. It was big time.”

“It’s so great to see Hannah get one tonight,” Izzo-Brown added. “She throws her body around and is ruthless inside the 18. I was happy for her to finally get one.”

Though the score was close, the play was not, as the Mountaineers again out-possessed a Big Ten Conference team, holding the Buckeyes to just four shots, all in the second half, and the lone shot on-goal. The Mountaineers also denied OSU a corner kick through the first 45 minutes and finished with an 8-3 edge.

WVU tallied 19 shots and forced goalkeeper Jillian McVicker into five saves.

“We faced some adversity tonight, and for OSU to get one chance and one finish was an emotional piece that I thought our team responded well to,” Izzo-Brown said.

The Mountaineers earned their quickest goal of the season against OSU, as Kaleiohi tallied her third goal of the year and second of the weekend in the 20th minute.

Posted in front of the net, Kaleiohi connected on the goal in easy fashion. Portillo sent a great ball in, and classmate Alli Magaletta one-touched it to a waiting Kaleiohi, who turned and placed her shot behind McVicker.

A native of San Diego, Kaleiohi has passed her 2015 goal total six matches into the season. Magaletta’s assist was her first point in a Mountaineer uniform. Portillo’s two-assist effort is a career single-game best.

The Mountaineers nearly had a two-goal lead early in the second half. Abam took a shot inside the 18 that smacked off the crossbar and back into play. Sophomore forward Sh’Nia Gordon pounced on the rebound and capitalized on the chance, but the goal was waved off as WVU was flagged for goalkeeper interference.

Kaleiohi was buzzing early, as she earned the first quality chance of the night with a header in front of the net in the second minute. McVicker quickly fell on the ball for the save. She followed with the game’s second shot in the ninth minute, but her in-stride look went wide of the left post.

Kaleiohi finished with a game- and career-high three shots on-goal.

With the go-ahead goal in their back pocket, the Mountaineers closed the match strong, rattling off four additional shots in the final 13 minutes, including two on-goal chances from Kaleiohi and junior defender Amandine Pierre-Louis, whose long shot was lofted over the box and toward the far right post but eventually stopped by McVicker.

Tonight’s win gives WVU a 5-4-1 advantage in the all-time series.

The Mountaineers return to the road and travel to Durham, North Carolina, to face their fourth ranked opponent in as many weeks, as the squad kicks at No. 5 Duke, the 2015 NCAA Tournament runners-up, on Friday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m., at Koskinen Stadium. The match will be streamed on WatchESPN.