In preparations for the 2014 season in the fall, the West Virginia men’s soccer team has spent the month of March training and participating in its annual spring schedule.
The Mountaineers, who went 7-7-5 last season including a semifinal exit in the Mid-American Conference tournament, are currently 1-0-2 this spring with two games left to play.
This past weekend in Morgantown, WVU hosted St. Francis in a match that ended in a 1-1 draw. Junior forward and first-team All-MAC selection Andy Bevin was the goal scorer for the Mountaineers.
WVU also drew against Villanova in the team’s first home match of the spring March 23. An impressive header goal by sophomore forward Ryan Cain put the Mountaineers on top in the first half, but West Virginia was unable to secure the win on the Rec Center Fields.
“We knew our field wasn’t going to be ready and we really didn’t want to play at the football stadium,” said WVU head coach Marlon LeBlanc. “So we figured we’d turn it into a (publicity) move and keep it on campus and get some support.”
The Mountaineers opened the spring season before the University’s spring break March 7 when the team traveled to in-state rival Marshall. An impressive crowd on hand witnessed West Virginia earns a 2-1 win thanks to goals credited to freshman defender Jack Elliott and sophomore midfielder Jamie Merriam.
West Virginia will play another Mountain State foe Saturday when the Mountaineers host Charleston University at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. The spring culminates in an exciting event for the program as the team will again travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.
It will be the third year in a row that the Crew will host the Mountaineers during spring practice. LeBlanc believes playing professional teams will showcase what America has to offer to players at the professional ranks.
West Virginia will return much of its roster from last season, including up to eight starters. The team is highlighted by five international players on the spring roster including spring goal scorers Andy Bevin and Ryan Cain (New Zealand), as well as Elliott (England).
Two first-generation Americans in freshman defender Alex Ochoa and midfielder Christian Diaz will also return after impressive rookie campaigns for the Mountaineers last fall.
“Soccer, as a sport and as a culture and as a way of life is indoctrinated into these kids from other countries at a very young age,” LeBlanc said.
Top domestic talent from the States include Merriam, Zach Leedom, Hayden Bennett and Nick Raskasky who has returned to the pitch following an ACL injury that sidelined him for the entirety of the 2013 season.
WVU and Charleston are set to kick-off from Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium Saturday afternoon.