MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia men’s soccer team opens Mid-American Conference Tournament play with a semifinal match against No. 8 Akron on Friday, Nov. 15. Kickoff is slated 7 p.m., at First Energy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field in Akron, Ohio.
“Akron is obviously a great program with a storied tradition,” coach Marlon LeBlanc says. “They are well-coached, have a great stadium and great fans. It’s going to be a challenge for our young group, but I know our guys are up for it.”
The Mountaineers earned the No. 4 seed and a tie for fourth place in the conference after a 3-3 draw against Bowling Green in the regular season finale last Friday.
West Virginia finished the regular season 7-6-5, including a 2-2-1 mark in MAC play. The Mountaineers are unbeaten in eight of their last nine matches. WVU ended the regular season with the conference lead in points (96), goals (28) and assists (40).
In conference rankings, junior Andy Bevin
is No. 1 in points (24), No. 1 in goals (9) and No. 3 in assists (6). Sophomore Majed Osman
is No. 1 in assists (7) and No. 2 in goals (6), while sophomore Jamie Merriam
is also tied for No. 1 with seven assists.
The Mountaineers and Zips last met on Sept. 29, in Morgantown. Akron came away with a 1-0 victory on a rebound goal by Reinaldo Brenes only five minutes into the match. The Zips finished with a 14-10 shot advantage, including 7-3 in shots on goal.
“A lot has changed since that last Akron game and a lot has changed for the better,” LeBlanc says. “We’ll have a different look than the first time we played against them. It’s a young team that we put on the field, but they have had trial by fire and along the way they have gotten better.”
Akron comes into the match with a 14-3-1 record and is coached by first-year coach Jared Embick. The Zips won the regular season championship after defeating Western Michigan, 2-1, in double-overtime last Saturday. The Zips have gone to overtime in four of their last six matches, winning three in double-overtime and drawing once.
Brenes leads the team with five goals, while Adam Najem has a team-leading 13 points with four goals and five assists. Robbie Derschang and Aodhan Quinn have four goals apiece.
Goalkeeper Fernando Pina has made 43 saves in 18 starts this season. Pina has a 0.62 goals-against average with eight shutouts.
The winner of tomorrow’s match will advance to the MAC finals on Sunday, Nov. 11, between the winner of No. 2 seed Western Michigan and No. 3 seed Hartwick. Kickoff for the finals will be at 1 p.m.