Women's soccer: West Virginia's Chrissie Abbott honored in Mountaineer Hall of Fame
As a prep star from Cleveland in the late 1990s, Chrissie Abbott could have signed with any number of elite women's college soccer teams.
She chose an up-and-coming WVU program, whose head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown spoke of winning Big East and national championships before her Mountaineers earned their first NCAA tournament berth.
"It was clear she had no doubt in her mind that at some point it was going to happen," said Abbott, now Chrissie Bolan.
"As a young 18-year-old, that's what I wanted to hear — that I was going to get to play for a program of that caliber. ... She made me a believer in everything she said."
Abbott helped turn the Mountaineers into a national power. The high-scoring forward finished her career with 53 goals, a record that stands 14 years later.
Her Mountaineers played in the NCAA tournament four times, advancing to the Sweet 16 in her senior season in 2003.
After that year, Abbott became the first WVU player to be named as a nominee for the MAC Hermann Trophy, college soccer's version of the Heisman Trophy.
She also departed WVU as the school's leader in shots (472), points (125), matches played (87) and matches started (87).
She'll receive the ultimate honor from WVU when she is inducted into the school's Sports Hall of Fame before the Sept. 16 WVU-Delaware State football game.
"I'm really excited," said Abbott, who lives in New Albany, Ohio, with her husband Scott and sons Miles, 3, and Jay, 1.
"It's something I never in my wildest dreams would have anticipated, but I am honored and looking forward to the celebration September."
Abbott received word of her induction via a December phone call from WVU athletic director Shane Lyons.
She had just returned home after watching the Mountaineers compete for the national championship in the College Cup, in San Jose, Calif. She was one of a number of former players who traveled to California to support the team.
"She was loud and proud," Izzo-Brown said. "Abbott has definitely been an alum who has stayed engaged in the program and has a huge presence. She just really loves being a Mountaineer."
She'll be the second WVU women's soccer play to enter the WVU Hall, joining her teammate of two seasons, Katie Barnes, WVU's first women's soccer All-American.
"I learned a lot from Katie when I got to play with her," said Abbott, who has taught high school math for the last 11 years. "To follow in her footsteps into the Hall of Fame is pretty special."
Abbott arrived at WVU in the fall of 2000 with more of a center-mid background. She played that position in high school and some forward in club.
"I had size, and I'd like to think I had skill," she said. "I definitely think Izzo put the pieces together of what I needed to do to be successful. I was willing to work hard with her guidance."
Locating the back of the net, though, was a challenge during her first college season, which she concluded with five goals.
"She hit everything over the crossbar her whole freshman year," Izzo-Brown said. "It was like the kid had so much power. ... It was like she was shooting from 40 yards out when she was 30 yards out."
As a sophomore, Abbott emerged as a scoring machine, tallying 15 goals.
Congratulations Abbott! A huge honor to an incredible person and player! So happy & proud!https://t.co/3RVTEIxkwO— Nikki Izzo-Brown (@WVUIzzoBrown) May 29, 2017
"She figured it out," Izzo-Brown said. "She really worked hard at it. Abbott did everything hard. She worked hard, played hard and was a great student and great person.
"Abbott was super competitive in everything she did. She didn't want to be beat. She really wanted to be the player she turned into."
Abbott had no bigger cheerleader than Izzo-Brown, who encouraged her to strive for greatness. When Abbott thinks of her coach, one image pops into her mind.
"It was actually a game we lost," she said. "She is not blessed in the height category, but it seemed like she was three feet off the ground jumping as high as she could in excitement after a goal. That excitement in that specific highlight held true through my four years."
Abbott's four years started the current streak of 17 NCAA tournament appearances.
"I'd like to think we were a small part of that foundation that has helped to recruit these great players like Ashley (Lawrence) and Kadeisha (Buch-anan)," she said, referring to the duo that led Canada to a bronze medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics. "It started in the late 1990s and early 2000s."
Abbott also loves that Izzo-Brown has not lost her passion for coaching and her teams, although she believes some things are different today.
"I don't think she is as hard on the team, because I think now the team is just so talented that she doesn't have to be as intense and demand as much out of them because they are talented and they all work hard," Abbott said.
"When we were coming up, she had to put all the pieces together and demand the best out of every one of us."
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