MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The West Virginia University men’s soccer team opens the 2014 campaign with the WVU/Penn State Invitational this weekend at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. The Mountaineers take on St. John’s on Friday, Aug. 29, at 5:30 p.m., followed by a match with Oakland on Monday, Sept. 1, at 1 p.m.
“There weren’t as many unknowns heading into this season,” coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “The guys came back very fit, which was a big help, and we’ve been able to use 20 guys in the first two exhibitions, so that gave us an opportunity to play around with some different lineups.”
Friday’s game has been designated as a “Dollar Day,” with all tickets, hot dogs, popcorn and Coca-Colas available for just $1 each. The game also is a “Gold Rush,” with all fans encouraged to wear gold in support of the Mountaineers. Additionally, the first 200 fans will receive smartphone wallets, the first 200 Mountaineer Maniacs will receive a koozie and all fans can pick up a 2014 men’s soccer schedule poster. Admission is free for WVU students with a valid ID.
Following Monday’s game against Oakland, there will be a free postgame youth soccer clinic at the Men’s Soccer Practice Field for children ages 13 and under. Children must register by halftime of the Oakland match in the concourse.
The Mountaineers were picked to finish second in the Mid-American Conference Preseason Poll, after finishing 2013 with a 7-7-5 record and a fourth-place finish in the conference.
The squad returns 16 letterwinners, including nine starters from 2013.
All-region and all-conference forward Andy Bevin returns for his senior season, looking to build on an already fantastic career. Bevin netted a career-high, team-leading and conference-leading nine goals in 2013.
Junior Ryan Cain, who has five goals in two seasons, will join Bevin in the attack up front. Cain finished with three goals and one assist in 2013. Eight members of the current team recorded at least two points last season, while five scored at least one goal.
West Virginia returns three starters along the backline in junior Haydon Bennett, sophomore Jack Elliott and sophomore Alex Ochoa. Senior Paul Ehrenworth, junior Francio Henry and junior Nick Raskasky each have extensive playing time in the back, adding depth.
St. John’s was picked to finish fourth in the Big East in 2014, after finishing with an 11-7-2 record in 2013. The Red Storm advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling at Virginia.
“Dr. Dave Masur does a fantastic job. They’ve won national titles and have been in the NCAA Tournament 22 of the last 24 years,” LeBlanc said. “They are one of the preeminent, pinnacle teams in college soccer. They’re as good as it gets. They’re disciplined always, they’re super fit always, they’re organized always and they always have the ability to rise to the occasion and they know how to win games.”
Leading returners include senior Daniel Herrera and senior Tim Parker. Herrera played in all 20 games last season, netting three goals and assisting on two. Parker was a unanimous selection for the second-straight year on the Preseason All-Big East Team. Parker has appeared in all 62 games in his career, including 61 starts. The defender has helped lead the defense to 28 shutouts in the past three seasons.
Oakland finished last season with a 7-7-5 record and made it to the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament. The Grizzlies were picked to finish third in the 2014 preseason poll.
All-league performers, senior Joey Tinnion and junior Raphael Reynoles, are top returners for the 2014 season. Tinnion had a team-leading seven goals, four assists and 18 points last year, while Reynolds scored one goal on 10 shots.
For live stats and video stream of this weekend’s matches courtesy of Kroger, visit WVUsports.com.