MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The No. 18-ranked West Virginia University men’s soccer team opens the 2012 campaign with the WVU Nike Classic this weekend at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. The Mountaineers take on Hartford on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 7 p.m., followed by a match with Stetson on Monday, Aug. 27, at 1 p.m.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been as excited for a season as I am with this group,” coach Marlon LeBlanc says. “This is a group we’ve obviously invested a lot in over the last four years, where a number of these players have been starters from day one. This one, I think on paper, is a legitimate contender and going into this year our feeling is that this could be one of the best teams we’ve probably ever put out on the field.”
Saturday’s game will also serve as “Dollar Night” with all tickets, hot dogs, popcorn and Coca-Colas available for purchase for just one dollar each. Fans can also pick up a free men’s soccer schedule posters featuring the senior class.
The Mountaineers were picked to finish second in the Mid-American Conference Preseason Poll, after finishing 2011 with an 11-8-1 record and a trip to the NCAA tournament.
The squad returns 22 of its 26 goals in 2011. In total, WVU only lost 10 of its 81 points from last season.
Offensively, the team is led by senior Shadow Sebele
and sophomore Andy Bevin
. Sebele led WVU with 19 points (6 goals, 7 assists) and was 3-for-3 on penalty kicks, while Bevin was the Big East Rookie of the Year in 2011 after scoring seven goals. Eight members of the current ream recorded at least two points last season, while seven scored at least one goal.
West Virginia returns two starters on the back line this fall in senior All-American Eric
Schoenle and sophomore Paul Ehrenworth
. Schoenle started all 20 games last season, scoring three goals with three assists, while anchoring the defense at the right center back position. Ehrenworth eased into a starting role at left back and played in all 20 games for the Mountaineers.
Senior goalkeeper Pat Eavenson
will start this season after splitting time between the pipes in 2011. Eavenson started nine games last season, allowing 13 goals with a 5-4-0 record and three shutouts.
Hartford was picked to finish third in the America East in 2012, after finishing with an 8-9-4 record in 2011. The Hawks closed out the campaign by winning five of their last six games to reach the America East title game for the first time in 12 years.
Thirteen players that contributed to Hartford’s success last season are back for the 2012 campaign, led by strikers David Bernhardsson and Anthony Santaga.
Entering his second season at the helm of the program, head coach Tom Poitras will look to guide the program to its first league title and NCAA Tournament appearance since the 1999 season.
Stetson men’s soccer team was picked third in the Atlantic Sun Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll, and additionally seniors Jonathan Mendoza, Luis Ocejo, and Kai Eckenrode were each recognized on the all-preseason squad.
The Hatters finished the 2011 season with a 10-5-4 record and return the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year and NSCAA Third Team All-American in Mendoza and the A-Sun Defensive Player of the Year in Ocejo.
T. Logan Fleck is entering his sixth season at the helm of Stetson and is looking to lead the Hatters to their second NCAA tournament appearance in the last four years.
“I know very little about these teams and that’s what happens early in the year,” LeBlanc says. “We try and focus more on ourselves than the opponent. I’ll do most of focusing on the opponent myself and then implement what we might need to do in training.”
Admission is free for WVU students with a valid ID, $5 for adults, $3 for youths 18 and under and seniors. Tickets are $2 per person for groups of 10 or more.
For live stats and video stream of this weekend’s matches courtesy of Kroger, visit WVUsports.com.