Men’s soccer kicks off 2012 season against Hartford
Published: Friday, August 24, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 24, 2012 06:08
The West Virginia men’s soccer team kicks off its 2012 season Saturday in the WVU Nike Classic against Hartford at 7 p.m. at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
Saturday’s season opener will also mark the first game for the Mountaineers in their inaugural season in the Mid-American Conference.
"We’re hoping to get a good turnout," said senior midfielder Travis Pittman. "But most importantly, we’re looking to get a result. Practice has been great this week."
West Virginia received two preseason top 25 rankings leading up to its first game Saturday. TopDrawerSoccer.com has the Mountaineers ranked No. 18 in the nation, while the Soccer America preseason poll ranks West Virginia at No. 23.
Some individual players for the Mountaineers have begun to accumulate their own preseason accolades as well.
Senior center back Eric Shoenle was announced as a first-team preseason all-American for the College Sports Madness website and was also named to the 2012 Hermann Trophy preseason watch list – the highest individual honor in collegiate soccer.
Sophomore forward Andy Bevin, the Mountaineers’ leading goal scorer in 2011, was named to the "Ten Sophomore Players to Watch" list at TopDrawerSoccer.com
"It excites us, but we can’t settle," Pittman said of the collective preseason expectations. "We’ve just got to work hard every day. If we’re not No. 1, it’s nothing. That’s our main goal – to be No. 1, and at the end of December, to win a national championship."
The Mountaineers played George Mason to a 0-0 tie at Manassas, Va., in their only exhibition of the fall, while Hartford scored a 2-0 win against Northeastern and tied Holy Cross 0-0 in their two fall non-team scrimmages.
Pittman noted that the team’s attacking play has been a focus in practice leading up to their season opener, after failing to score in both the Blue-Gold game and the George Mason exhibition. But Pittman was also assertive that everyone will be ready to go Saturday.
"I’m pretty confident," Pittman said. "Our coaching staff is unbelievable with the way they break down game film. They do a great job telling us how to defend and explaining the opponent’s weaknesses. Hopefully we can get a couple goals this weekend."
The Mountaineers were 11-8-1 last season and were eliminated in the second round of the NCAA tournament by Maryland.
Hartford finished 8-9-4 overall and fell to Stony Brook in the 2011 America East tournament championship game.
West Virginia head coach Marlon LeBlanc said the team’s emphasis leading up to the season opener with Hartford would be more on preparing to play their own up-tempo style than trying to focus too intently on the characteristics of any single opponent.
"I know very little about Hartford," LeBlanc said. "But I think that’s mostly what happens early on in the year. We’ll look at very, very short clips of Hartford. We try to focus more on ourselves than on the opponent.
"I’ll do most of the focusing on my opponent myself, and then implement what we need to do in training in order to see it come out in the game without bogging them down with too much information."