Paul Kennedy continues Women's Elite 8 Countdown
A pipeline from Ontario to West Virginia has been an important factor in the success of the Mountaineers, who host USC Friday in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I Women's Tournament.
Juniors Amanda Cicchini, Robin Rushton and Deana Everrett grew up playing together in Ontario and on Canadian select teams and have been keys to West Virginia's march to the Elite 8 for the first time in its history.
Indeed, the 5-foot-2 Cicchini may be one of the most underrated midfielders in the country.
She has traveled the world, representing Canada at two world youth championships, but she's happy in Morgantown.
"I came here to get a degree and play soccer," she said earlier this fall.
The knock on Cicchini has been that she needs to become more involved in the attack, but it was her free kick that set up Krystle Kallman for the winning header in West Virginia's 1-0 win over No. 1 seed Penn State in the round of 16.
Cicchini, Rushton and Everett played together, along with Mountaineer reserve Nicole Mailloux, on the Dixie Blaze that dominated Ontario girls soccer.
Rushton joined Cicchini on the All-Big East tournament team earlier this month after the Mountaineers beat Notre Dame in the final, and she has been outstanding on the backline that has yet to give up a goal in the NCAA Tournament.
Everett has already scored three goals in the NCAA Tournament -- two goals in the 4-0 win over Navy and the second goal against James Madison -- after scoring seven goals in the regular season -- a drop from her breakout year in 2006 when she scored 18 goals, the second most by a West Virginia player in a single season.
TRIVIA. Players from Canada's team at the 2004 Under-19 Women's World Championship in Thailand are represented on five teams in this year's Elite 8:
West Virginia-Amanda Cicchini, Deanna Everrett.
Connecticut-Stephanie Labbe, Katie Radchuck
Florida State-Erin McNulty