When asked about what helped his team win its first Mid-American Conference, head coach Marlon LeBlanc gave a simple answer.
“An amazing amount of resiliency,” he said.
Along with securing their first MAC regular-season title the West Virginia men’s soccer team snagged their first conference championship since 2006 when the team competed in the Big East conference.
The Mountaineers (12-5, 4-0 MAC) finished off their home stretch of the season by finding themselves on the winning end in their last four matches. Before the four-match winning streak, the Mountaineers had won four of their last six matches.
Although securing the conference championship Friday night, the season hasn’t always been pretty. Throughout the season the Mountaineers suffered ugly losses to Radford on Sept. 25, 4-1, as well as losing three matches 1-0 early in the season.
Last season, the Mountaineers saw their hopes at a conference championship diminish after beginning the season 7-3-3 and then collapsing with a 2-3-1 record to end the season. 2016 also saw West Virginia disappoint with an 8-7-1 record and 1-4 in MAC.
“We’ve been so close a number of times, I think this team deserves the award of finally being close but getting the job done and we’re a good team,” explained LeBlanc following Friday night’s match against Bowling Green.
The closest West Virginia has gotten to winning the MAC conference in the past six seasons was when the team went 11-7-1 and 3-1-1 in the MAC in 2014.
With a loaded squad full of four senior leaders, the Mountaineers hope to rely on leadership and experience to carry them far into the MAC championship and beyond.
The Mountaineers are led by their four seniors. Goalkeeper Stephen Banick, forward Rushawn Larmond, and midfielders Joey Piatczyc Jorge Quintanilla. Piatczycz leads the team in goals and points with six and 18, although he missed a few games in the middle of the season.
Piatczyc secured the game-winning goal for West Virginia yet again Friday night, giving the senior midfielder 21 game-winning points in his career.
Although not securing a conference regular season championship since 2006, LeBlanc his coached the Mountaineers to much success, leading his team to top-25 rankings the past three seasons as well as reaching the Mid-American Conference championship four years in a row from 2012 to 2015.
West Virginia will now travel to Northern Illinois on Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. before competing in the MAC tournament on home turf on Nov. 9 and Nov. 11.