Jamie Merriam has a history as the player who helps get the ball rolling for the West Virginia University men’s soccer team.
Last year, Merriam scored the game-winning goal in the season opener against St. Johns, starting a three-game win streak.
Merriam, a native of Gaithersburg, Maryland, scored the first two goals for the Mountaineers this past Sunday. The two goals in two minutes generated enough momentum to carry throughout the game, resulting in a 6-0 beatdown of the University of San Francisco.
"Jamie’s got it all…the kid is class, and he’s got everything you need," midfielder Joey Piatczyc said.
Piatczyc had the assists on both of Merriam’s goals against San Francisco, including one off a corner kick in the eighth minute. "He’s a bulldog, that’s the guy you really don’t want to mess with. (Merriam) is the guy who is going to win it in the air every time. He’s smart," he said.
Merriam is coming off a year where he finished second on West Virginia in points (23) and shots (49); he finished behind the now South Melbourne FC player, Andy Bevin.
"(Jamie) is the guy when we need to put the ball in the back of the net, and he knows that’s what his job is," head coach Marlon LeBlanc said. LeBlanc praised the style of play Merriam has possessed ever since the midfielder committed to WVU in 2012.
After dropping the home opener against Navy, Merriam’s leadership was on full display. "We just had to realize it’s a long season…I had to let the boys know that things will turn around, and we had to turn it around today," Merriam said.
The Mountaineers knew they needed a clear mind against San Francisco. "Being negative isn’t going to be helpful," Merriam said. "We lost, the game is over, now we have to win, treat it as a new start, and things will pan out."
A new start was exactly what happened as the core players up front dictated the outcome in a 3-0 first half.
"Guys like Merriam, Jack Elliot, Ryan Cain and Mike Desiderio are big time, if they don’t play well; typically you’re not going to be on the right side of things," LeBlanc said, vouching for his upperclassmen.
Going into his senior year, Merriam’s distinguished leadership is what elevates him to the next level. In high school, he was named first team all state, finishing his high school career with 78 points. As a sophomore, he finished tied in assists for the Mountaineers.
After being named All-MAC First team, MAC distinguished Scholar-Athlete and ranked fourth in the MAC in points, it is clear who will help drive the success of WVU.
"(Merriam) is our guy, our captain, our All-American candidate," LeBlanc said.
When Merriam signed his letter of intent to WVU, LeBlanc said he could be the "sleeper of the class". Merriam is well on his way past the "sleeper" label at this point for WVU. Now, he is the sleeper to win MAC Player of the Year.