MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University men’s soccer team opened its 2014 season with a 1-0 win against St. John’s on Friday evening in front of 1,699 fans at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
“We talked about this year being different from last year and righting some of the wrongs,” coach Marlon LeBland said. “We had to grind, it was pretty at times and it was ugly at times. I think we did enough to get the job done and it was a just result.”
The win was just the third in 15 tries against the Red Storm, and the first since the Big East Tournament in 2004.
“We played really well for a lot of that game,” LeBlanc says. “They caused us some problems with the long ball that they were hitting in, but we made the right adjustments and took it away from them.”
After missing a chance in the first five minutes of the match, junior Jamie Merriam notched the first West Virginia goal of 2014 in the 39th minute.
Senior Andy Bevin began the sequence of passing by sending a ball to sophomore Christian Diaz at midfield. Diaz played the ball to junior Zak Leedom, who sent a through ball to the goal line for freshman Louis Thomas. Thomas sent in a cross to Merriam for an easy header from six yards out.
“You always want to get that first goal,” Merriam says. “The first one is the hardest and once you get that, the ball just starts rolling for you. I’m really stoked that I got it on opening night and was able to help the team to a win. The build was prettier than the finish.”
West Virginia finished with the 13-6 edge in shots and a 5-4 lead in corner kicks. Merriam took a game-high four shots, followed by junior Ryan Cain with three shots. Cody Albrecht and Jordan Rouse each had two shots for St. John’s.
The first chance came only 13 seconds into the match by St. John’s. After a defensive breakdown, Rouse beat WVU sophomore keeper Brent Arnold to the ball and had a wide open net, but sent the shot just wide.
Arnold, who picked up his first career win and first career shutout, made two saves. He had the games biggest save in the 50th minute when he stopped a Rouse header at point-blank range. It initially looked like the rebound was the game-tying goal, but the goal was negated by an offside call.
The Mountaineers return to action against Oakland on Monday, Sept. 1, at 1 p.m. Following the match, 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.
For live stats and video steam of Monday’s match courtesy of Kroger, visit WVUsports.com.