No. 3 Zips present huge opportunity for WVU
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 03:10
Saturday, the West Virginia men’s soccer team has an enormous opportunity waiting for them in Akron, Ohio.
If the Mountaineers can find a way topple the No. 3 Zips, they’ll not only secure an almost definite spot in this year’s NCAA tournament, they’ll also take a huge step toward securing home-field advantage for their first-ever Mid-American Conference tournament, which starts the second week of November.
It’s a matchup that WVU’s players and coaches have had circled since their schedule was released before the start of the season, but taking down the national champion from two years ago certainly won’t be an easy task.
The Zips have been one of the most successful teams in the MAC since joining the conference in 1992 and have only dropped one result the entire season, against No. 7 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. They’ve also played to two draws through 12 appearances this year.
As daunting as the task of defeating the Zips on their home pitch may seem, the Mountaineers are completely capable of playing at the level needed to take down Akron.
WVU battled then-No. 1 North Carolina Aug. 31 to a 0-1 result, and fell by the same score to No. 18 Wake Forest just three days later. West Virginia head coach Marlon LeBlanc noted after the trip that, although his team was perfectly capable of winning both matches, things just didn’t go their way.
These results, in addition to watching the Mountaineers perform at home this year have me believing the Mountaineers can indeed go into Akron and leave with an upset. But several things will have to happen in order for that to occur.
First, the Mountaineers are going to have to be very patient and make the most out of the scoring opportunities they get. Usually, the free-flowing attacking offense of WVU isn’t consistently challenged at midfield, and the Mountaineers are able to keep possession and advance the ball down the pitch seemingly at will.
This has resulted in the Mountaineers out-shooting and earning more corner kicks than nearly every opponent they’ve faced this season – by a large margin.
That simply won’t be the case Saturday night in Akron. The Mountaineers may have been able to waste scoring chances against the likes of less notorious opponents such as American University and FAU, but they can’t leave a single opportunity out on the pitch when you play a top team like Akron.
The Mountaineers will also have to rely on some players other than senior center back Eric Schoenle, WVU’s leading goal and point scorer this season. Schoenle’s certainly expected to start, despite being lifted with an injury during the Oct. 14 game, but the problem is elite teams do a great job of taking away your best weapons.
LeBlanc said this was indeed the case in their road trip earlier in the season where they played North Carolina, Wake Forest and Penn State in a matter of days. LeBlanc said before Schoenle could even approach the ball, coaches from the sidelines would be screaming for their players to swarm the talented senior.
Fortunately, the Mountaineers have had scoring balance this year, getting goals from a staggering 12 different players.
If some combination of these players are able to indeed take advantage of whatever scoring opportunities arise Saturday night in Akron, I think the Mountaineers will ultimately have a great chance to topple one of the best teams in the nation and take one step closer to playing at home for the duration of their first ever MAC tournament.