West Virginia set for showdown vs. No. 3 Akron
Published: Friday, October 19, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 19, 2012 03:10
The West Virginia men’s soccer team will travel to First Energy Stadium in Akron, Ohio, Saturday, to take on the No. 3 team in the country: the Akron Zips.
The Mountaineers (8-3-2, 3-0-1 MAC) and the Zips (10-1-2, 4-0 MAC) are the only two teams left in the Mid-American Conference that haven’t dropped a conference match yet this season, and Saturday’s winner will likely determine the No. 1 seed for the MAC conference tournament, which begins Nov. 11.
"They’re going to be a really good team. It’s a huge game for our season," said senior midfielder Shadow Sebele. "This is the game we’re really looking forward to. Not just for the MAC championship but also for our tournament lives, so if we can come out and win against Akron, it’s going to be huge for us going forward."
The winner of Saturday night’s contest will have the luxury of controlling their own destiny in regards to the MAC conference tournament seeding. This is vital because the No. 1 overall seed is guaranteed home pitch advantage for the semifinals and finals of the conference tournament.
Both teams have exploited the opportunity to play on their own pitch so far this season. Akron is undefeated at home in six matches this season, and the Mountaineers have only dropped one match at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in 2012.
West Virginia still has to travel into a hostile First Energy Stadium in Akron in order to have a chance at dethroning the incumbent conference champions. The Zips also won a national title in 2010.
"It’s going to be a great atmosphere over there. We’ve got to come in and give them everything we’ve got," said senior forward Uwem Etuk. "They’re a really good team, and we just have to do our best when we get over there to get a result."
Both teams have gotten contributions from a number of players this season, Akron has had 10 different players score goals, and the Mountaineers have had 12 players find the back of the net in 2012.
But the Zips have three double-digit point scorers to just one for the Mountaineers – senior centerback Eric Schoenle, with 10 points.
Senior Scott Caldwell, Akron’s points leader, and junior Reinaldo Brenes have scored seven goals each for the Zips in 2012, tallying 19 and 16 points, respectively. Eric Stevenson, another junior, rounds out the Zips’ double-digit points scorers, with five goals and four assists for a total of 14 points.
"They’re a good team. They have good players," LeBlanc said. "We’re going to have to be pretty careful in our approach and probably a little more reserved in the way we approach the game, in regards of how we’re going to defend and how we’re going to attack.
"We’ve got to make sure that we do a good job of understanding that the environment is going to be difficult; the team we’re playing against is going to be energized and flying all over the place. They’re going to be an inspired opponent."
LeBlanc also said he thought the winner of Saturday night’s highly anticipated contest would indeed decide the regular-season champion of the conference.
"Right now, I think it’s a two-team race for the MAC title," LeBlanc said. "So this game, obviously, coming up is going to go a long way in determining who is going to win the regular season."