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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The West Virginia men’s soccer team begins NCAA Championship play with a first round match against Xavier on Thursday, Nov. 18, at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
West Virginia is serving as one of 16 host schools for the first round of the tournament. The winner will advance to take on Akron in second round action on Sunday, Nov. 21.
“Our guys are prepared because they have played in tough environments all season,” coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “We’ve learned from very difficult games through the course of the season and certainly we feel as a staff that our guys are fresh and healthy. We’ve had a nice layoff to rest and recover and I think we’ll be good to go come Thursday night.”
West Virginia comes into the match with a 10-7-2 record, including 5-4-0 in conference play and 9-1-0 at home. Junior Shadow Sebele leads the Mountaineers with four goals and nine assists for 17 points. Junior Franck Tayou has six goals, while sophomores Peabo Doue and Eric Schoenle each have five.
This will be West Virginia’s 11th trip to the NCAA tournament, the first since 2007. The Mountaineers are 3-10 all-time in tournament play. WVU’s deepest run in the NCAA tournament was in 2007, reaching the Sweet 16.
“Playing at home is good if we have a home field advantage and the only way to have a home field advantage is to have a loud and boisterous crowd at Dick Dlesk,” LeBlanc said. “At this stage everybody has even records and we’ll take it one day at a time.”
This is Xavier’s first trip to the NCAA tournament since the inception of the program 1974. The Mountaineers and Musketeers have played four previous times from 1987-1990, with WVU holding a 3-1 advantage.
Andy Fleming is in his first season as the head coach of Xavier, who come in with a 10-6-4 record overall, 5-4-0 in Atlantic 10 play. Fleming previously served as the associate head coach for national power Northwestern.
Xavier entered the 2010 season projected to be 13th of 14 teams in the Atlantic 10, before earning a No. 6 seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Musketeers were able to defeat the tournament’s top three seeds and ultimately defeated La Salle, 2-0, in the championship game to earn the automatic bid.
Three Musketeer players were named to the Atlantic 10 all-tournament team: Brandon Bucher, Nick Hagglund and Luke Spencer. After scoring only one goal in the first six games of the regular season, Xavier’s offense scored 18 in the final 14 games.
Spencer leads the team with five goals and assists for 13 points. James Getzen and Matt Walker each have three goals apiece, while 13 players have recorded at least one point for Xavier this season.
“They are tactically fantastic and Andy Fleming has done a tremendous job in his first year with this group in terms of having them prepared and organized,” LeBlanc said. “The one thing about Xavier is the fact that they don’t beat themselves, they play organized, compact and are committed to what the team game plan is.”
Xavier’s stellar defensive unit has only given up 16 goals this season and has recorded nine shutouts, including three straight in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Goalkeeper Justin Marshall has played in 19 games and most recently was named the most outstanding player of the Atlantic 10 tournament. In the tournament’s three games, Marshall did not allow a goal and made 21 saves. For the season, Marshall has logged 1,773 minutes, making 75 saves with a goals-against average of 0.76.
Ticket prices are $7 for adults and $5 for youth (ages 18 and younger) and senior citizens. Admission is free for West Virginia University students with a valid student ID.