MORGANTOWN — Rylee Foster may be one of the top players in women’s college soccer.
It’s just difficult for her to prove it as West Virginia’s goal keeper.
The recognition is already there. She was a member of the Canadian national under-20 team that competed at the 2016 U-20 World Cup.
She’s already earned all-region and all-Big 12 honors during her first two seasons.
Foster, a native of Cambridge, Ontario, is on the preseason watch list for the MAC Hermann Trophy — soccer’s version of the Heisman.
Foster will likely not win the honor — no keeper ever has — which sets the table for the kind of uphill climb the junior faces in earning national respect for the position.
“If I could be someone who brings more attention to keepers, that would be great,” said Foster, who will be in goal at 7:30 p.m. today when the No. 9 Mountaineers open the season at fourth-ranked Penn State. “That’s something I’m interested in; showing people that we’re talented players who just don’t happen to play in the field, but we have ability.”
WVU head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown has long been sold on her goalkeeper.
Izzo-Brown never hesitated starting Foster at keeper during her freshman season in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, even though Foster had just returned from World Cup play and had missed the previous 10 matches.
Foster responded by making five saves in a 1-0 victory against Duke that sent the Mountaineers to their first College Cup.
“I’ve always told her she is one of the best keepers in the country,” Izzo-Brown said. “Rylee knows that I am one of her biggest fans and always have been. I hold her to a very high standard.
“If she were to go on and win the [Hermann], that would just be a huge privilege for her, but it would not shock me.”
What would shock Izzo-Brown is if the Mountaineers consistently had to call on Foster to make more than a few plays each match.
That’s the funny thing about being a keeper, in order to stand out from their peers, they have to play on a team that gives up lots of scoring chances.
“The other thing is if you’re a keeper facing 25-26 shots a game on a lesser team, they’re not going to win the award,” because of a lack of team success,” Izzo-Brown said.
WVU, with a back line of Bianca St. Georges — also on the Hermann watch list — Easther Mayi Kith and Vanessa Flores, isn’t expecting to give up many scoring opportunities.
“Hopefully this year, we’ll have the best back line in the country and she won’t have to do anything this year,” Izzo-Brown said with a smile.
Foster, who has posted shutouts in 20 of the 40 career games she’s played a full game in, is ready for whatever challenges come her way.
“I’ve definitely been blessed to have played with talented people in front of me,” she said. “This year, we have a very talented team and we’ve all played at the highest level internationally, so I think we’ll have good chemistry and communication.
“There might be a few mistakes here and there, but they’ll have my back and they know I’ll be there to back them up.”
Justin Jackson is a sports reporter at The Dominion Post. Write him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bigjax3211