Entering her 21st season as the only coach in Mountaineer women’s soccer history, Nikki Izzo-Brown has built a one-time infant program into one of the nation’s elite teams.
In her previous 20 seasons, Izzo-Brown has coached 15 players who went on to play professionally, 20 All-Americans, 18 Academic All-Americans, 14 Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) Hermann Trophy candidates and one finalist, 18 conference players of the year, two Olympians and FIFA Women’s World Cup participants and one FIFA Women’s World Cup Best Young Player honoree. The Mountaineers enter the program’s 21st season having made an appearance in each of the last 16 NCAA Tournaments, the country’s seventh-longest streak.
To date, Izzo-Brown has led the Mountaineers to an impressive 286-101-44 overall record and a 119-41-20 conference mark that includes nine regular-season titles and five tournament championships. West Virginia has won at least one conference title in each of the last five seasons, including the 2015 Big 12 Conference regular-season crown, its fourth straight, bringing the team’s Big 12 trophy count to six in four seasons.
Women’s soccer won the school’s first Big 12 championship in 2012 and was the only WVU program to win multiple Big East tournament titles.
Izzo-Brown’s teams have been a consistent force in the national rankings and reached new levels in 2015, as the team spent 15 weeks ranked within the top 10 of the NSCAA Poll, peaking at a program-record No. 2, a position it held for two weeks. Additionally, WVU has defeated a top-10 opponent in 11 straight seasons.
In addition to the success she has enjoyed with the Mountaineers, Izzo-Brown has several years of experience with U.S. Women’s National Teams, including serving as an assistant at the teams’ 2012 training camps with the U.S. U-18, U-20 and U-23 squads.
Izzo-Brown has never had a losing season as head coach and has led WVU to 16 straight 10-plus win seasons. Additionally, she has earned 11 combined conference and regional coach of the year awards since 2000.
Izzo-Brown made sure the Mountaineers’ 20th season was a year to remember, as she led WVU back to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals, the squad’s second appearance and first since 2007. The tournament appearance was the team’s 16th straight, and the program’s No. 2 seed was its highest ever.
In addition to their run through the NCAA Tournament, the Mountaineers also captured their fourth straight Big 12 Conference regular-season title with a 6-0-1 mark. WVU is the only program in Big 12 history to win four straight outright titles. The unbeaten Big 12 mark is the team’s third in four seasons.
The Mountaineers finished the season at 19-3-1, and the 19 victories are a program record. WVU was ranked in the top 10 of the NSCAA Poll the last 15 weeks of the season and peaked at a program-record No. 2, a position the squad held for two weeks. The Mountaineers finished the year ranked No. 7, also a team record.
Led by Izzo-Brown, the WVU defense posted a program-record 15 shutouts, the third-best mark in the NCAA, and allowed just 11 goals and 44 corner kicks all year. WVU ended the season ranked No. 5 nationally in goals-against average (0.471) and shutout percentage (0.652). The 11 goals allowed were the fewest in program history. The Mountaineer offense also was spectacular and set a program record with 61 goals.
Named the Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year for an unprecedented fourth straight season, Izzo-Brown saw defender Kadeisha Buchanan become the program’s first-ever MAC Hermann Trophy finalist. The Best Young Player at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Buchanan and midfielder Ashley Lawrence, a Hermann Trophy semifinalist, were named to the NSCAA All-America First Team, marking the first time in program history two Mountaineers were selected as semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy and garnered All-America First Team honors. WVU has had at least one Hermann Trophy semifinalist in each of the last three seasons.
Senior Amanda Hill pushed WVU’s All-America count to three, as she was named to the Senior CLASS All-America Second Team. Hill also was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team, and classmate Kailey Utley landed on the NSCAA Scholar All-America Third Team.
Buchanan secured her third straight Big 12 Defender of the Year honor, and defender Bianca St. Georges was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. Additionally 10 of the 11 WVU starters earned a combined 11 All-Big 12 honors, a league-best mark and a program record.
In their first three seasons as members of the Big 12 Conference, the Mountaineers staked their claim as the team to beat, winning five conference titles, including three straight regular-season crowns, and six players of the year awards.
Izzo-Brown led the Mountaineers to two Big 12 Conference titles in 2014, as WVU successfully defended its regular-season and championship titles. The Mountaineers ended the season on a 19-match unbeaten streak, a program record, and went unbeaten in Big 12 play for the second time in three seasons.
WVU advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 15th straight season and finished the year at 16-2-4; the team’s two defeats were the fewest in a season in program history. The squad finished the year ranked No. 15 in the NSCAA/Continental Tire College Rankings. The Mountaineer defense posted 12 shutouts, including five in Big 12 regular-season play, with four coming on the road. The four conference road shutouts marked the first time in program history WVU denied a conference opponent a goal in its home arena.
Izzo-Brown earned her third straight Big 12 Coach of the Year honor, while Buchanan scored her second consecutive Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honor and Michaela Abam was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. WVU collected a conference-best nine All-Big 12 honors.
For the second straight season, Izzo-Brown watched two student-athletes collect All-America honors, as Buchanan was named to the NSCAA/Continental Tire All-America First team, becoming the program’s first sophomore to earn a first-team award. Buchanan also was named a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy. Additionally, Kate Schwindel was named to the Senior CLASS All-America Second Team, the program’s first Senior CLASS Award finalist.
Izzo-Brown capped off the season with her second straight NSCAA Central Region Coach of the Year award, her fifth career honor.
The Mountaineers secured seven straight victories in conference play in 2013 to earn their second straight Big 12 title with a 7-1 record. The team continued its stronghold on its conference opponents with three shutout victories at the 2013 Big 12 Soccer Tournament en route to the Mountaineers’ first Big 12 Conference Championship title, also the first for any WVU team at a Big 12 Conference Championship.
With the win, WVU earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, its 14th consecutive appearance. The Mountaineers advanced to the second round for the ninth time in program history, the first time since 2010, and finished the year at 16-4-3 and ranked No. 12 in the NSCAA/Continental Tire College Rankings and No. 8 in the TopDrawerSoccer.com Top 25 Rankings.
WVU swept the conference awards, as Frances Silva was the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and Buchanan was the Big 12 Defender and Newcomer of the Year; the Mountaineers became the first team to win the offensive and defensive awards in the same season. Additionally, Izzo-Brown earned her second straight Big 12 Coach of the Year honor, and six student-athletes scored eight All-Big 12 awards.
The successful season ended with the trio scoring several major awards, including NSCAA/Continental Tire All-America Second Team honors for Silva and Buchanan and NSCAA Central Region Coach of the Year accolades for Izzo-Brown. Additionally, Silva, a Hermann Trophy semifinalist, was named an NSCAA College Scholar All-American and the CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year.
In its inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference in 2012, WVU won the regular-season championship with a 7-0-1 record. Seven student-athletes were named All-Big 12, including Bry McCarthy who was chosen as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Izzo-Brown was named the conference coach of the year.
The 2012 Mountaineers scored an upset win over No. 1-ranked Stanford, 1-0, on Aug. 26 at the Penn State Invitational. The win snapped Stanford’s 64-match regular-season unbeaten streak.
West Virginia defeated visiting Texas Tech, 3-2, on Sept. 21 to give women’s soccer, and WVU athletics, its first victory as members of the Big 12 Conference.
To end their careers, McCarthy earned All-America honors and midfielder Bri Rodriguez was named a NSCAA College Scholar All-American.
The 2010-11 seasons marked the end of an era as the Mountaineers won back-to-back Big East Championships before departing for membership in the Big 12 Conference. It also marked the third conference title in a five-season span.
West Virginia finished the 2011 season with a 17-5-0 record, and a 10-1-0 mark in league play, to win its division for the fifth time. The 10 wins marked a school record, making WVU one of only four Big East schools to ever win 10 league contests in a season.
The Mountaineers finished the season ranked No. 9 by Soccer America and won 15 of their last 17 matches to close the season.
The 2010 season was a record-breaking one as the team won its second Big East Championship while advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16. WVU had its school record 14-match win streak end in the NCAA Tournament against College Cup participant Boston College, giving the Mountaineers a final record of 18-5-1.
WVU’s 1-0 win over fifth-ranked Virginia matched the then-highest-ranked opponent defeated in school history, and the team’s 3-0 shutout against Georgetown marked the program’s 200th win.
West Virginia’s defense set the single-season record for shutouts at 14, while goalkeeper Kerri Butler also broke the school record for career shutouts, finishing with 44.
From 2005-09, the program reached new heights with consecutive NCAA appearances in every season and won its first Big East Championship. Izzo-Brown was named NSCAA/adidas and Soccer Buzz Mid-Atlantic Regional Coach of the Year in 2007 as WVU was ranked every week throughout the season and tied a then-school record for wins (18).
The 2007 squad advanced to the program’s first NCAA Elite Eight while establishing an attendance record with more than 3,000 fans for the NCAA Elite Eight contest with USC. Three players earned All-America status and six were named All-Big East. Forward Ashley Banks added to Izzo-Brown’s collection of major award winners as the 2007 Big East Offensive Player of the Year and a Hermann Trophy semifinalist.
WVU won Big East division titles in three straight seasons (2006-08) and at least one Mountaineer earned All-America honors from 2006-09. Carolyn Blank added the title of Big East Midfielder of the Year to her resume in 2008, a team that tied the school record for fewest losses in a season with three defeats.
Ten seasons ago, Izzo-Brown took her high-powered offense to the 2006 NCAA Tournament as WVU scored a then-school-record 55 goals in 21 games. Forward Deana Everrett had a breakout sophomore season to earn third team All-America honors from Soccer Buzz. The 2006 Mountaineers also displayed a stingy defense that shut out 13 opponents over the course of the season, including eight Big East foes.
Led by All-Americans Chrissie Abbott and Lisa Stoia, the 2003 Mountaineers made history, going 17-4-2 to give West Virginia its first NCAA “Sweet 16” appearance. The senior-led squad logged nine straight wins at one point during the season and had its first-ever Hermann Trophy nominee in Abbott, who graduated as WVU’s all-time leader in goals scored, points and shots, while Stoia established the school’s then-all-time assist record.
Izzo-Brown directed West Virginia to an 18-3-1 record, the most wins in school history, and the program’s first Big East division title in 2002. The Mountaineers also received their third consecutive invitation to the NCAA Tournament after putting together an 18-match unbeaten streak. Abbott was the Big East Offensive Player of the Year and a first team All-American, while Stoia earned Big East Midfielder of the Year honors. Izzo-Brown was the Big East and regional coach of the year.
A youthful Mountaineer squad played to a fifth straight 15-win season in 2004 and saw Izzo-Brown’s fourth All-American develop as forward Laura Kane earned the nod from the NSCAA after an eight goal, nine assist senior season.
West Virginia was nationally ranked for the first time in 2000, a regional coach of the year season for Izzo-Brown’s first-ever NCAA Tournament team. Four team members landed spots on Big East all-conference teams, including Big East Offensive Player of the Year Katie Barnes and co-Big East Rookie of the Year Stoia. In that season, Barnes became WVU’s first All-American.
The Early Years
Izzo-Brown accepted perhaps her greatest challenge on Aug. 3, 1995, when then-WVU Director of Athletics Ed Pastilong named her the first head coach of West Virginia's women's soccer program.
In WVU’s inaugural season, Izzo-Brown led a young team to an amazing 10-7-2 record and a 4-4-1 Big East mark. WVU finished fifth in the conference, surprising Big East coaches, whose preseason prediction picked the fledgling Mountaineers to finish dead last.
Soccer Buzz ranked West Virginia as the eighth-best “new program” in the nation. In addition, Izzo-Brown's first season at WVU produced a Big East All-Rookie Team member in defender Stacey Sollmann.
Only two years later, West Virginia made its first Big East Tournament with a team that won 11 matches in 1998. Stacey Adams was the program’s first Big East Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year winner, and Sollmann earned second team all-region accolades.
Izzo-Brown led the Mountaineers to an 11-6-2 record in 1997, and two years later, they finished 9-9-1. With trust, hard work and sacrifice, the foundation had been laid for a breakout season in 2000.
Graduation is a must for Izzo-Brown-coached players who are asked to challenge themselves academically while at WVU. Her teams consistently hold one of the program’s highest GPAs on campus with their serious commitment to academics.
The women’s soccer team received public recognition in the spring of 2010 for the third year in a row by the NCAA for its multiyear Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores. The team posted a multiyear APR in the top 10 percent of all squads in each sport. The APR accounts for eligibility, retention and graduation and provides a measure of each team's academic performance.
Izzo-Brown has coached 18 Academic All-Americans, and the NSCAA honored her team in the fall of 2015 with its 14th consecutive NSCAA Team Academic Award for its work in the classroom.
Fourteen student-athletes earned Academic All-Big 12 honors in 2015, with eight freshmen landing on the Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team. A program-best 11 student-athletes were named to the 2014 All-Big 12 Academic Soccer Team. For the eighth straight season, at least one Mountaineer was an NSCAA Scholar All-Region honoree in 2015, as Kailey Utley was named to the Third Team. Additionally, Amanda Hill earned CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team honors.
With tremendous experience and knowledge of the game, Izzo-Brown has built a reputation for getting the most out of her student-athletes. The veteran coach maximizes the performance of her players by providing opportunities to process information in multiple ways in order to find success for each individual.
Paving the way for the success of recent Mountaineers, Katie Barnes was the first women’s soccer player to be named an All-American and captured two straight Big East Offensive Player of the Year awards. In all, Izzo-Brown has guided 20 players to All-America status and 18 conference player of the year honors.
Barnes was drafted with the first pick of the second round (ninth overall) of the 2002 Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) professional draft by the Carolina Courage. WVU was well represented in the WUSA and added to its professional player development with the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league. Most recently, Frances Silva became the seventh Mountaineer to be drafted when she was selected by FC Kansas City with the 19th overall pick at the 2014 National Women’s Soccer League College Draft. Additionally, Sara Keane was picked up by FC Kansas City prior to the 2014 opener, and both signed contracts with the Blues.
During the 2012 offseason, Izzo-Brown served as an assistant at U.S. Women’s National Team training camps with the U.S. U-18, U-20 and U-23 squads. In the summer of 2011, she joined April Heinrichs, U.S. Soccer Technical Director, for a week of training with the U-20 team. She also spent time after the 2007 season as an assistant coach with the U-20 National Team under then-head coach Jill Ellis.
During her coaching tenure, more than a dozen Mountaineers have participated in the national team scene, with Barnes being selected to the team that won the 2001 Nordic Cup. Most recently, Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence competed for the Canadian Women’s National Team at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada, with Buchanan earning the Best Young Player award. The duo also were named to Canada’s 18-player roster for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games, becoming the first WVU women’s soccer players named to an Olympic roster.
Prior To WVU
As a player, Izzo-Brown attained All-America status at Rochester, where she was a four-year starter from 1989-92. During that span, Izzo-Brown helped the Yellowjackets to a 58-10-9 record and four straight NCAA Tournament appearances. In 1991, as a junior, she led Rochester to a 16-4-2 mark and a spot in the NCAA championship game.
During her career at Rochester, Izzo-Brown also earned All-East, all-region and all-league honors, while meriting Dean's List recognition all four years. Following her senior campaign, she won the prestigious Merle Spurrier Award, which recognizes Rochester's top female athlete based on leadership, academics and athletics.
Izzo-Brown graduated from Rochester in the spring of 1993 with a degree in psychology. That fall, she was named assistant coach at West Virginia Wesleyan, where she continued her winning ways by helping the Bobcats to a 12-7 record. Izzo-Brown was elevated to head coach in 1994 and led Wesleyan to a 13-5 mark and a spot in the NAIA National Tournament.
While coaching at the Buckhannon, West Virginia, school, Izzo-Brown earned her master's of business administration degree in 1994.
In the fall of 2010, she was inducted into the University of Rochester Athletic Hall of Fame.
In addition to her duties at WVU, Izzo-Brown is certified as an advanced national level coach by the NSCAA, has her USSF “B” license and is a Region I senior staff Olympic Development member. She has served on several regional and national ranking committees for the NSCAA. She also is qualified internationally with Brazilian, KNVB and Czech Republic certification.
In May 2010, Izzo-Brown was named to the West Virginia Executive Sports Hall of Fame. Later that fall, she was inducted into the University of Rochester Athletic Hall of Fame for her outstanding achievement in the sport of soccer.
Five summers ago, she was named a 2011 Frontier Field Walk of Fame inductee.
She and her husband, Joe, have three daughters – Samantha, Gracie and Gabriella.