MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In front of a raucous crowd the West Virginia men’s soccer team handed No. 1 Connecticut its first loss of the season with a 2-0 shutout win on Tuesday evening at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
The Mountaineers (8-5-1, 4-2-0) dominated the offensive and defensive zone in the final 60 minutes of the match and held Connecticut (13-1-1, 4-1-1) to just five shots on-goal, including only one in the second half.
“Not only did we execute the game plan, we carried the bulk, momentum and tempo of the game, and that was really important for us,” coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “They are a very dynamic and explosive team and I thought we did a fantastic job of neutralizing what they did well and really played to our strengths.”
The attendance of 1,719 marks the sixth highest to witness a game at Dick Dlesk.
“I’m glad all the eyes were on this game. I think this team deserves that,” said LeBlanc who has six wins over Top 10 teams since 2006. “I told you that when this place was packed, we don’t lose. I’m just hoping that wins like this will convince our fan base to keep coming out.”
This is the second time that a LeBlanc-coached squad has defeated top-ranked Huskies, as the 2007 team won a 1-0 decision in Morgantown. LeBlanc now improves to 4-1-1 against Connecticut since his arrival at WVU, more wins against UConn than any other BIG EAST team.
Connecticut came into the game only allowing three goals all season and WVU’s two goals are the most allowed by the Huskies since a 2-2 tie against Pitt on Oct. 28, 2008.
After stopping a UConn offensive rush that included six corner kicks between the 15th and 28th minutes, the West Virginia offensive started to dominate and struck gold in the 34th minute.
Midfielder Shadow Sebele scored on a penalty kick for his sixth goal of the season to break the game open. The UConn foul occurred after defender Raymon Gaddis played a ball to forward Andy Bevin who was then taken down right in front of goalkeeper Andre Blake. Sebele finished the penalty try to the left of Blake for his third successful penalty kick of the season.
“This is going to give us a lot of confidence going forward,” Sebele said. “We knew this was the best defensive team in the nation, so scoring two goals against them and having a shutout is big for us.”
Forward Peabo Doue nearly doubled WVU’s lead just one minute later when he took a shot that just went off the post from the left side of the field.
WVU was then able to hold the ball for the remainder of the half and came out just as hot to start the second.
“They are too good to just go and defend against them,” LeBlanc said. “We had to make sure that we just didn’t focus on them and make sure my guys understood what the game plan was in terms of how we wanted to approach it.”
Midfielder Ruben Garrido started the offensive onslaught with a near goal in the 58th minute after hard work from Doue to run across the end line and put the ball in the middle to Bevin. Bevin played it to Garrido who took a close range shot that went into the side of the net.
Garrido had another chance in the 62nd minute on a similar play when Bevin brought the ball down the left side and crossed it to Garrido who took a shot that was blocked.
Defender Eric Schoenle added an insurance goal on a header in the 78th minute that went past a sprawling Blake. The play started on a corner kick in the near side of the field with midfielder Travis Pittman playing a ball out to Sebele. Sebele then played a left-footed cross right to the head of Schoenle for the 2-0 lead.
“As soon as Shadow played it, I thought I was going to get there. And when it left my head I knew that it had a chance barring a spectacular save,” Schoenle recalled. “It went in and I couldn’t have been happier. It was pure joy and I’m just happy to help the team out.”
WVU finished with the edge in shots (14-12), while UConn led in corner kicks (9-7). Stephane Diop of UConn and Bevin led all players with four shots each, while Sebele added three for the Mountaineers. Midfielder Uwem Etuk finished with two shots-on goal to lead WVU in that category.
The first shot of the game came from Diop in the 4th minute after a WVU foul just outside the box. Diop hit a floater that WVU keeper Justin Holmes stopped with ease.
Etuk had an opportunity for Mountaineers in the fifth minute after nifty footwork by Bevin. Bevin found Etuk who took a shot inside the box that Blake stopped.
Holmes made five saves in earning his fifth shutout of the season. Blake made three saves in the losing effort.
The Mountaineers have a quick turnaround as they face Providence for Senior Day on Friday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m., at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. The game will be nationally televised by Fox Soccer Channel.