SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – The No. 8 West Virginia University men’s soccer team competed to a scoreless tie with Cal Poly on Sunday afternoon at Alex G. Spanos Stadium in San Luis Obispo, Calif., in front of 1,041 fans.
“It was important that we were able to get a result. This is a very difficult place to play,” coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “The pitch is only about 68 (yards) wide, 118 long and especially with the way that Poly plays. It’s very direct with a lot of balls hammered from their backs into the box and lots of knock downs.”
In his first career start at WVU, goalkeeper Justin Holmes helped preserve the tie with nine key saves en route to his first shutout as a Mountaineer. Holmes transferred to West Virginia after spending two seasons at New Mexico.
“Justin was fantastic. He needed to be,” LeBlanc said. “I thought the game suited him when we scouted how they were going to play. He’s aggressive off the line and handles crosses well. He positions himself well for this type of game.”
WVU (2-2-1) recorded five shots and four corner kicks and Cal Poly (2-1-2) finished with 20 shots and nine corner kicks.
George Malki and Benny Estes of Cal Poly recorded four shots apiece, while five different Mountaineers recorded one shot.
Holmes made multiple game-saving saves including one in the 73rd minute on Malki who found the ball right in front of the Mountaineers net and ripped a shot that Holmes deflected out. Malki had another chance in the 74th minute on a rocket from about 25 yards out that hit off the crossbar.
Holmes’ best save of the day came in the 78th minute off the head of Patrick Sigler to the near post. Malki fed a corner kick to Sigler and Holmes made a diving stop to his right.
Holmes continued his fantastic afternoon with a save in the 96th minute on a volley from Chris Fisher into the upper corner that Holmes was able to punch over the goal.
“That’s expected (to make saves) from any keeper,” Holmes said. “You want to come in and make good saves. I was blessed today and had a great game and I’m fortunate enough I get to step out on the field with these guys.”
Midfielder Shadow Sebele had WVU’s best opportunity in the 39th minute when he took a shot that was punched out by Cal Poly goalkeeper Chris Violas. Forward Jay Williams played a leading ball to forward Peabo Doue who took the ball into the right corner and fed a cross to Sebele on the far post.
Midfielder Ruben Garrido had WVU’s only other first half shot in the 20th minute off a Sebele in-swinging corner kick. Garrido had his liner get blocked by a Cal Poly defender in the box.
Garrido had another chance in the 71st minute as he broke through the Mustang defense at about the six-yard mark and was unable to gain full control for a shot.
The game also marked the first career start for freshman defender Paul Ehrenworth who played both midfield and defensive positions.
The Mountaineers will now return home for a three-game home stand that starts on Friday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m., with a match against Richmond. The match has been designated as a “Dollar Day” with all tickets, hot dogs, popcorn and Coca-Colas for just one dollar each. The game will also be a Gold Rush, where fans are encouraged to wear the official 2011 WVU fan shirt to the game for a chance to win a WVU prize pack. Area youth soccer teams are also invited to attend in celebration of US Youth Soccer Month.