Jamie Merriam is a big time player.
At least according to his coach Marlon LeBlanc, who sang nothing but high praises for the junior midfielder following the men’s soccer team’s season opening win against St. John’s last weekend.
“He’s the best attacking midfielder in the MAC and one of the best attacking midfielders in the country,” LeBlanc said. “The more we win some of these games, other people will notice it besides me. The more goals he scores, the more people will pay attention to him. Then we’ll see how good he is once everybody notices it. But Jamie Merriam is a big time player.”
WVU hadn’t beat the Red Storm since 2004.
“I would’ve been 10 years old playing club soccer,” Merriman said. “My mom always gave our team orange slices at halftime.”
After a missed opportunity early in the game, the junior notched the first West Virginia goal of 2014 the 39th minute off of a beautiful setup.
The sequence was started by senior Andy Bevin, who passed the ball to sophomore Chris Diaz at midfield. Diaz then passed the ball to junior Zak Leedom, who sent a through ball to the goal line for freshman Louis Thomas. Thomas sent a cross pass to Merriam, who made an easy header from six yards out.
All in all, 18 passes in the 55 second sequence were made.
“It was great, it’s a monkey off my back,” Merriam said. “You always wanna get that first goal. Once you do that the ball just keeps rolling for you. I’m excited I got it on opening night, but the build up for that goal was prettier than the finish.”
It was a big win for the Mountaineers, who are looking to add impressive non-conference wins to their resume. St. John’s has made the NCAA tournament 22 of the last 24 years, and a win like this will go a long way toward a high RPI ranking come November.
“It’s a huge boost. We needed this, obviously we have five home games so it’s nice to get the first one under out belt,” he said. “We plan on going 5-0. To finally get back in the right side after so many ties last year, it’s just a nice boost for the freshman coming in and a testament to how much work we’ve put in this offseason.”
The Mountaineers posted a 7-7-5 record in 2013.
As a sophomore, Merriam saw action in all 19 games and started in 15, where he logged more than 1,300 minutes. He scored a total of two goals and assisted five, but made it a priority to attack more this offseason. Two games into the season and he’s already matched his goal total from last year.
“(Merriam is) a really good attacker who’s definitely confident in his abilities,” Bevin said. “He always finds himself in the right place at the right time. He looked dangerous (on Friday).”