West Virginia Men's Soccer Headed Back to NCAA Tournament
For the second straight season, the West Virginia men’s soccer team is headed to the NCAA Tournament.
West Virginia enters the postseason as an unseeded team after winning last weekend's MAC Tournament. Monday's NCAA Selection show matched the Mountaineers (9-8-2) with the Butler Bulldogs. Butler will host the opening match at its facility in Indianapolis, with the winner moving to the second round.
Should West Virginia win in Indy, the Mountaineers will draw an intriguing second-round opponent. The winner of this first-round game will advance to play the 11th-seeded Marshall Thundering Herd, who received a first-round bye.
Coach Marlon LeBlanc’s team finished the regular season with a losing record and went without a win during conference play. However, three straight wins over higher-seeded opponents gave the Mountaineers an automatic bid into the Big Dance.
West Virginia entered the MAC tournament as the sixth seed out of six teams. An opening-round win over SIU-Edwardsville set up the biggest challenge of the tournament - a Friday match with 2nd-seeded Western Michigan. A pair of first-half goals from Josh DiMatteo put the Mountaineers in control after 45 minutes, but the Broncos struck back early in the second. A penalty kick score from Albert Andres-Llop proved to be the eventual game-winner. Western Michigan scored its second in the 86th minute, but it was too little, too late. The Mountaineers moved onto the championship round, thanks to a 3-2 upset.
The Mountaineers got a bit of help from the other side of the bracket, as Bowling Green knocked off top-seeded Akron in the other semifinal. The Falcons proved to be a stern test, but the will of the West Virginia eleven proved to be too much. In the 86th minute, DiMatteo’s cross found the head of Luke McCormick, and the freshman beat the keeper for an incredible 1-0 advantage.
Mountaineer goalkeeper Steven Tekesky held the lead on his way to the tournament's Most Valuable Player honors, allowing just two goals in three games. He was joined on the All-Tournament Team by DiMatteo, McCormick and Ryan Kellogg.
The win put the West Virginia men’s soccer team in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year, the first back-to-back appearances for the Mountaineers since 2010-11. This marks the sixth postseason for Coach Marlon LeBlanc since he took over the program in 2006. LeBlanc’s teams have reached the second round of NCAA play in four straight tournament runs.
Butler enters the national tournament coming off of a heartbreaking loss in the Big East Tournament. Falling in penalty kicks to Georgetown, the Bulldogs finished with a record of 11-6-2. The Mountaineers will enter a challenging environment at the Bud and Jackie Sellick Bowl, where Butler went 7-2-1 during the regular season.
West Virginia and Butler play this Thursday, November 21, at 6 p.m.