By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
September 27, 2006
The last time West Virginia defeated a Penn State men’s soccer team in 1973 Mountaineer coach Marlon LeBlanc was, well, not Marlon LeBlanc. That was three years before he was born.
“During the (Richard) Nixon administration, right?” LeBlanc asked.
The No. 9-rated Mountaineers (8-1-2) didn’t need Nixon’s Plumbers Wednesday night in State College, Pa. -- just a couple of goals from Paul Cunningham and Andrew Wright to erase Penn State’s 1-0 first-half lead and claim a 2-1 victory over an injury-plagued 3-6-1 Lion team.
Cunningham found the back of the net on a header off a corner kick to tie the match at the 61:11 mark, and four minutes later Wright put the Mountaineers up for good by cleaning up a Cunningham blast that hit the right post.
“We were playing well for long stretches of the first half and then probably at about the 25-minute mark we started giving them too much room to play,” LeBlanc said. “We just weren’t playing real well defensively in the first half.”
After some halftime adjustments, West Virginia controlled most of the second half. WVU had a 9-to-1 advantage in corner kicks and was on the attack the entire second half.
“They barely got a sniff,” LeBlanc said. “We got seven corner kicks in the second half and that means we were playing in their end of the field.”
LeBlanc, who played at Penn State and spent five seasons on Barry Gorman’s coaching staff, was wearing a Pennsylvania-sized grin on his face after the match.
“It feels good and I’m happy for the guys and it’s a big win for us,” LeBlanc said.
The former Penn State aide spent this week downplaying the match to his team, reminding them that a more important task is ahead this weekend at Connecticut. But deep down LeBlanc knew this was an opportunity to validate the West Virginia program in the eyes of middle Atlantic region recruits that he’s going to go head-to-head against Penn State with in the coming months.
“This win goes beyond the soccer field,” LeBlanc explained. “That kind of stuff is good for recruiting and kind of establishing who the top team is in this area. We’re the team to beat in this area and that’s big-time for West Virginia; it gets our name out there and when you go look at the rankings and you see the top 10 and West Virginia is there that goes a long way.”
LeBlanc was particularly pleased to beat a nationally recognized coach in Gorman who played an integral role in LeBlanc’s development both as a player and as a coach.
“He’s the guy that gave me the opportunity to be at this level,” LeBlanc said. “Without him I obviously wouldn’t be at West Virginia so I owe him a whole lot. They’re going through a rough spell with injuries and whatnot right now, but he’s an excellent coach and a great teacher -- not just of players, but of coaches as well.”
LeBlanc said the exchange between teacher and pupil at midfield after the match was a simple one.
“He just said congratulations. ‘You’ve got an excellent team and good luck the rest of the year,’” LeBlanc said.
The first-year West Virginia coach, who finally bought a house in Morgantown last Friday, says he's got some unfinished business to take care of in State College tomorrow although it's not a return for a victory lap.
“I’m selling my house,” he chuckled. “We finally got some appliances in our place in Morgantown today and everything is finally moving along.”
Just like his soccer team.