Learning to Win

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  • October 05, 2009 09:38 AM
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Posted by Adam Zundell on Monday, October 5, 2009
(9:39 am)
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Welcome (back) to Inside the 18! Everybody got their mark? Good.

  Shadow Sebele got his catchy nickname by always following around his older brother.
Allison Toffle photo

As I mentioned two weeks ago, the West Virginia men’s and women’s teams have had similar themes to their season with youth being primary among them. One of the biggest adjustments for players who are coming to a higher level of competition is learning how to win.

Of course, in soccer, one of the challenges in learning this lesson is that there isn’t always a winner with the looming prospect of a tie. But the premise, “Nobody likes a tie,” isn’t necessarily true. There are lots of teams that come to Morgantown or play the Mountaineers (men or women) that would love to settle for just a point. That is sometimes exemplified in the way they play. At lower levels, the difference in talent is so great that the “better team” often comes through. At a higher level, like college soccer, this isn’t always the case.

That’s not to say that teams come in hoping to play to a 0-0 draw. However, it means that some teams can come in and play ultra conservatively and take just a few risks and maybe try to steal a goal. Coaches are out to win and keep their jobs, and minimizing risks against a more talented team is a prudent decision. Style points are about as useful as a cavear at a WVU tailgate.

So, players and teams have to figure out how to win - how to score pretty goals and how to score ugly goals; how to scrap and play physical; when to attack and when and how to kill off a game.

The Mountaineer men seem to be learning this lesson. In their last three outings, WVU has scored a pair of overtime victories (including one over then third-ranked South Florida) and notched a late goal in another to come out with three points in each of those games. Coach Marlon LeBlanc has indicated that the learning-to-win curve has been over a year in the making dating back to last season and that it comes down to work ethic.

“We learned a lot about ourselves after the two draws at Wilmington,” LeBlanc said. “We had played good soccer but what was lacking was a little bit of the work ethic. If you want to win games you’re not going to win on talent alone – your talent should be what puts you over the top.”

LeBlanc references the golden goal against the Bulls to illustrate his point. On that play, most everyone gave up on a ball that was assumed to be fielded by the goalkeeper. However, Shadow Sebele didn’t give up on the ball, kept running, and put it in the net. Good night.

For Nikki Izzo-Brown’s squad, WVU already has four ties on the young season and recently dropped a tough decision to eighth-ranked Notre Dame after having the Irish on the ropes.

Coach Izzo-Brown talked after the game about breakdowns at critical moments and not getting performances at critical times from players, which is the essence of learning to win. Sunday’s efficient 2-0 victory over a pesky DePaul team featuring goals from key players Megan Mischler and Carolyn Blank shows a significant step in the right direction for the Mountaineers.

Tournament Projections
If you’re curious about WVU’s NCAA Tournament hopes and were looking for a soccer-style Joe Lunardi Bracketologist, you’re in luck! TopDrawerSoccer.com has a unique spin on its weekly rankings by doing NCAA Tournament projections after each week. Check it out the women’s projections here (http://tiny.cc/uDipL) and the men’s projections here (http://tiny.cc/EuoSr).

What’s In a Name?
Maybe you’re like me and are curious about names - nicknames, in particular. The men’s soccer team features a pair of good ones in Abel “Shadow” Sebele and Moeryhan “Peabo” Doue. It’s not unusual for players to come up with nicknames for each other once they spend some time together. But for Sebele and Doue, the two have had these names for as long as they can remember.

For Shadow, it’s not hard to find the lineage. He was tabbed with the name by his older brother’s friends because he was constantly following him around like most younger siblings do. Peabo was given the name in kindergarten by his mom and sister, and it eventually spread to his school. He only went by Moeryhan when a substitute teacher would be called in and would read the name on the attendance list, and the rest of the class would be puzzled because they had no idea who the name belonged to.

The two pass the ultimate nickname test in that both families call them by their adopted names.