Hill On Top Form As Mountaineers Scale Red Raiders Challenge

Written by Ian Thomson

MORGANTOWN, W.Va – West Virginia’s junior midfielder Amanda Hill produced a midfield masterclass Friday night as the 10-man Mountaineers swept aside Texas Tech at a sodden Dick Dlesk Stadium.

WVU had built a 2-1 lead at half-time before a staggering red card issued to Amandine Pierre-Louis on 55 minutes threatened to unravel what had been an excellent display until that point. Instead, the Mountaineers showed remarkable calmness to race away to a 4-2 win in this engrossing Big 12 Conference clash.

Maggie Bedillion and Michaela Abam found the net with blistering strikes from distance while midfielders Ashley Lawrence and Cari Price beat visiting goalkeeper Lauren Watson with assured finishes inside the penalty area. Yet Hill deserves the plaudits after excelling in the subtler aspects of the game – when to hold the ball, when to play a quick pass, and when to take possession despite nearby pressure to create space for her teammates.

“I’ve been on her for a couple of years now about really running things, being that player that sets the tempo for us,” WVU head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown told The Soccer Observer after Friday’s game.

“Her decision-making and soccer IQ were great tonight.”

Amanda Hill (No.27) tries to get a shot on goal during WVU's 4-2 win over Texas Tech (Photo: Ian Thomson)
Amanda Hill (No.27) tries to get a shot on goal during WVU’s 4-2 win over Texas Tech (Photo: Ian Thomson)

Hill received few headlines during her freshman and sophomore seasons. She started every one of WVU’s 43 games in those two years, consistently bringing her quiet effectiveness to the midfield holding role while bigger names like former goal grabber Frances Silva and current Canadian national team defender Kadeisha Buchanan grabbed the attention.

There was a moment in the second half Friday when the Washington, Pennsylvania native supported winger Kelsie Maloney tight against the left touchline with three Texas Tech defenders closing in. Maloney slipped a pass into Hill’s feet and darted down the flank in search of a one-two. An instant return would have been intercepted as one Red Raider followed Maloney’s run and another blocked the passing lane. Hill took a touch, enticed her opponents toward the ball, sidestepped a challenge and threaded a perfectly weighted pass into the newly opened space for Maloney to gather. Footballing art.

Hill’s coup de grace came on 71 minutes as WVU defended a corner kick. She shepherded the ball from her own penalty area to the halfway line before realizing that support was slow in arriving. So Hill furrowed on down the right wing, expertly shielding the ball as she dribbled, before winning a throw-in at the corner flag some 90 yards from where her break had begun.

Substitute Abam received the throw, spun away from her marker and rocketed an unstoppable left-foot blast into Watson’s far top corner to give the 10-man Mountaineers an incredible 4-1 lead.

Abam and Bedillion conducted their own personal Goal-of-the-Month competition against Duquesne in September. They were at it again at the expense of Texas Tech. Bedillion had canceled out Paige Strahan’s early opener when she strode forward from left-back on eight minutes to thump a 30-yarder beyond the flailing Watson.

Izzo-Brown’s Canadian heavyweights combined to edge West Virginia ahead on 21 minutes. Buchanan made a vital tackle inside the Red Raiders’ penalty box after Bedillion’s free kick was not properly cleared. Lawrence seized upon the loose ball to round Watson and steer her shot into the net despite the attempted blocks of two defenders retreating onto the goal line.

Maloney almost extended WVU’s lead to 3-1 on the stroke of half-time when she cut inside left-back Jaelene Hinkle and skelped a shot off the crossbar.

The potentially game-altering moment arrived 10 minutes after the interval when freshman forward Pierre-Louis chased Hinkle back toward the halfway line before launching into a clumsy sliding tackle that tripped the Red Raiders defender. It was a clear foul possibly worthy of a yellow card. Referee Luis Guardia’s decision to brandish red was dumbfounding.

West Virginia shrugged off the setback. Izzo-Brown flattened out her midfield into a four-man line that Texas Tech lacked the inventiveness to breach, and Kailey Utley continued her threatening assaults down the left wing whenever the chance arose. Price steered an unerring shot inside Watson’s far post five minutes after Pierre-Louis’ dismissal as the Mountaineers soldiered on as if they had the extra body.

“They just turned the focus on,” Izzo-Brown said. “They absolutely dealt with the adversity. It didn’t even faze them.

“They took control and that was huge.”

More remarkable than West Virginia’s dominance with 10 players was that they somehow shipped two soft goals that bookended 80 minutes of excellence. Food for thought for Izzo-Brown on the training ground next week. For this weekend, her players deserve to treat that slackness as an afterthought.

 

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