MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Tessa Broadwater joined the West Virginia University women’s soccer team in August expecting minimal playing time during her freshman year.
Instead, the Midlothian, Va. native will lead the Mountaineers’ offense against Rutgers in the NCAA Division I championship Saturday after WVU, No. 12 in this week’s national rankings, suffered a spate of season-ending injuries to key players.
Broadwater was confined to brief substitute appearances as West Virginia retained its Big 12 Conference regular-season title in October. That changed when another injury to central striker Kate Schwindel, a back-to-back All-Big 12 First Team pick, left Mountaineers’ head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown with a significant gap in her line-up.
“I’m blessed that coach believed in me to step up and fill Kate’s shoes,” said Broadwater, a former midfielder with the Richmond Kickers Elite program. “They’re really big shoes to fill.”
A first collegiate start for Broadwater on Nov. 6 carried the additional pressure of being in a Big 12 tournament quarter-final against the University of Kansas, held in Kansas City.
“My nerves were crazy,” Broadwater said. “I got out there and all the fans were screaming, but I just went with it and had fun.”
The makeshift forward completed the scoring in a 3-0 win for WVU. Subsequent victories over Baylor and Oklahoma State earned Broadwater a Big 12 championship ring last Sunday to add to her regular-season award.
Yet it could have turned out so differently. Broadwater could have been lining up for Radford University in the Big South tournament final against Liberty last Sunday had family ties not swayed her to renege on her initial commitment. Radford’s loss has been West Virginia’s gain.
Broadwater was in her junior year at Cosby High in Midlothian when her elder sister, Taylor, matriculated at WVU. Younger sibling Toryn will also arrive in Morgantown next year to join Izzo-Brown’s highly successful soccer program.
“Toryn got me to go to a soccer camp with her because she didn’t want to go alone,” Broadwater said.
“I loved watching WVU games when we’d go to visit Taylor, and when I went to the camp I imagined being on that field would be a better experience for me.”
The lure of being with her sisters weighed heavily on Broadwater irrespective of whether she would be playing soccer. Her decision to switch was confirmed after making a positive impression on WVU’s coaches during her training camp appearance. Her standing within the team has confounded Broadwater’s pre-season expectations.
“I wasn’t expecting to play at all as a freshman,” said Broadwater after Monday’s NCAA tournament draw. “When I started going into some games as a substitute I was happy getting 10 or 15 minutes, and now I’m starting.
“It’s unbelievable to me. I’m so lucky.”
West Virginia boasts some of the finest talent in the country and the team ran the table in the Big 12’s recent awards. Izzo-Brown scooped Coach of the Year honors. Senior Frances Silva was named as the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league in goals scored. Canadian national team player Kadeisha Buchanan lifted the Defender and Newcomer of the Year awards.
“Training with them every day really puts you in the mindset to get to their level,” said Broadwater, who has also been practicing hard in the past two weeks to learn the unfamiliar position of a center-forward.
Her composure on the ball, her ability to create chances for teammates and to score goals on her own were factors behind Izzo-Brown’s decision to hand Broadwater such an important role going into the biggest games of the college season.
Broadwater scored her first collegiate goal in a 3-0 win over Rutgers in an exhibition game in August. Her parents and three sisters will be in Morgantown this weekend hoping for a repeat performance that could set up a second-round meeting with No. 4 seed Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
“A ton of my friends go there,” Broadwater said. “So that would be a huge game.”
Sept. 26, 2013 — Canadian Szwed Still Key To WVU Women’s Title Hopes
Sept. 16, 2013 — Kentucky Loss Leaves West Virginia Women With The Blues
Aug. 13, 2013 — WVU Women Impress In Season Opener Against Rutgers