It took an entire season to achieve with some triumph, lots of struggle and frustration. It ended with a win-or-go-home situation.
The story of the 2013 West Virginia men’s soccer team is a rocky one.
A team comprised of 14 freshmen and sophomores who saw action throughout the course of the year accomplished what they set out to do in August.
A bid to the Mid-American Conference tournament has been punched and a trip to Akron, Ohio, looms.
In a year filled with ups and downs, head coach Marlon LeBlanc and his Mountaineers remained resilient.
The team finished the regular season 7-6-5 (2-2-2), but their record doesn’t tell the entire story.
Five of WVU’s six losses have come by one goal. During the second half of September, West Virginia lost four games in a row to national powers St. John’s, Michigan, Penn State and Akron, all by a single goal.
Stuck in a bad way, the Mountaineers needed to begin a run inside the MAC to place themselves in postseason play.
After a 4-0 rout of last place Northern Illinois, West Virginia dropped an unfortunate game at Hartwick 1-0 despite conceding just two shots on-goal.
The Hawks were the final team to beat the Mountaineers this season.
WVU is unbeaten in the last six games, going 2-0-4 during the span.
In that time, the team has only given up five goals, three of them in the regular season finale against Bowling Green.
While the offense stumbled a bit, WVU’s defensive play, led by junior goalkeeper Lee Johnston and a growing back line, picked the team up until an explosive end to the season.
West Virginia scored five goals in its final two matches of the season in a 2-1 victory over Buffalo and 3-3 draw to Bowling Green. The Mountaineers needed both results to get into the postseason. The young bunch delivered.
“We’re scoring goals again right now,” LeBlanc said. “If you ask around, we’re probably the last team anybody wants to play right now because we’re young and inexperienced and are going to make mistakes, but we’re playing on that edge and are capable of scoring three or four goals a game.”
The Mountaineers, fresh with new life, head to the postseason as they travel to the University of Akron for their second MAC tournament.
Seeded No. 4, Akron, Western Michigan and Hartwick are the other teams that qualified in the league. West Virginia will get its rematch with the No. 9 Zips.
“I like our chances,” LeBlanc said. “We’ve only lost once since the start of October. This team is hard to beat right now.”
WVU needs to win the tournament Friday to receive an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament.
While the road has been long this season, the fact the Mountaineers remain alive with their season intact really speaks for the kind of team they are: down, but never out.
West Virginia and Akron will kick off Friday at 7 p.m. in the MAC tournament semifinal in Akron, Ohio.