WVU Men’s Soccer Team Falls In MAC Semifinals
MORGANTOWN — Akron’s Carlo Ritaccio picked a heck of a time to find his scoring touch.
The freshman buried his first two career goals, answering an early West Virginia strike, as the fourth-seeded Zips (9-6-2) knocked off the top-seeded Mountaineers (13-6-0) in the Mid-American Conference semifinals at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium Friday night, 3-1, to avenge a come-from-behind 2-1 overtime loss on Oct. 13.
“There have been moments, especially last time we played West Virginia, where we didn’t bounce back well,” Ritaccio said. “I thought, with that goal, we were able to move on.”
West Virginia will await its NCAA Tournament fate on Monday. The bid, which is likely, would be the Mountaineers’ first since 2011.
“I didn’t have my team prepared,” WVU coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “Their performance is on me. I’ll take responsibility for it. Much like I said after the Radford game (a 4-1 loss on Sept. 25), I promise this will be fixed before the NCAA Tournament.”
Akron is now 12-0 in the MAC tournament under coach Jared Embick.
“Good win for us. We needed it, I think, as we’re looking to make the tournament and we needed it to strengthen our resume,” Embick said.
It took West Virginia all of 11 seconds to go in front as Andres Muriel Albino tucked home a feed from Kevin Morris.
And it took a grand total of 92 seconds after that for the game to be tied, as, off of a corner kick, Ritaccio scored, with assists to Abdi Mohamed and Skye Harter.
“We start one senior on this team, and I thought our immaturity showed after we scored,” LeBlanc said. “Goals come in pairs. I don’t know how many times we gave up a goal after we scored. And this group…the immaturity side is on me. I’ve got to get them more mature. I’ve got to help them grow.”
“I think that was a big moment for us,” Embick said. “Our guys kind of shook (the early WVU goal) off. Our first attack, we were able to get a corner kick and scored off of it. I thought that was huge for momentum.”
Both teams exchanged half-chances for the next 15 minutes, with Albino’s deft chip just over the bar in the 18th minute the best look for the Mountaineers.
Akron’s David Egbo got through on the right side in the 19th minute but his low shot was easily gloved by Steven Tekesky.
Akron continued to build in the 23rd minute; Morgan Hackworth’s cross from the right side was volleyed wide of the target by Harter.
The Mountaineers’ second shot on goal of the night came from Tsubasa Takada, whose hopeful effort from distance on the right side was saved by Ben Lundt in the 26th minute.
Colin Biros hit the crossbar for Akron in the 33rd minute, then Tekesky did well to snare a cross in trafic on the next service.
In the 34th minute, Akron’s Ezana Kahsay rocketed a volley over the crossbar.
He didn’t miss nine minutes later, though, heading a cross from Biros past Tekesky to give Akron a 2-1 halftime lead.
“We were pretty focused,” Embick said. “Outside of the opening kickoff, I thought we played really well the first half, one of our better halves all season.”
The Zips had an 16-3 edge in shots at intermission, putting five on frame to WVU’s two.
In the 57th minute, WVU had a solid look to equalize, but Ryan Kellogg’s sliding attempt was just short.
Rittacio struck again in the 66th minute from Marcel Zajac’s assist and the lead was two goals for the Zips, 3-1.
Akron advances to play Western Michigan, 2-0 winners over Bowling Green, in Sunday’s final at 1 p.m., in Morgantown.
Sunday’s winner earns an automatic NCAA bid.