WVU Rallies To Down LIU IN NCAAs
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia coach Marlon LeBlanc promised to ‘fix it’ after his team lost 3-1 to Akron in the Mid-American Conference semifinals last Friday.
It took a little while (blame the cold and rain, perhaps) for the solution to take effect, but LeBlanc’s Mountaineers shook off an early 2-0 deficit to defeat the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds, 4-2, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
West Virginia (14-6) picked up its first NCAA win since 2011, which is also the last time the Mountaineers were in the field of 48.
West Virginia advances to play at No. 13 Georgetown, which had a first-round bye, on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Mountaineers were especially dominant on set pieces, scoring three of their four goals directly from or as a result of corner kicks and the other one on a Joey Piatcyzc free kick, to counteract two goals from Rasmus Hansen and a pair of assists by Giuseppe Barone.
“We were up 2-0 and feeling really confident,” LIU Brooklyn coach TJ Kostecky said. “Giving up three goals on corner kicks, which is something that we have never done this year, is a bit challenging.
“We should have done better on that.”
LIU Brooklyn (13-6-1) took the lead just three minutes and 11 seconds into the match as Hansen finished off the build-up from Barone and Filip Nordstrom.
West Virginia had some good possession to push forward up the right side in the eighth minute, but Piatczyc’s cross went through the box untouched.
At the 8:55 mark, Barone’s cutback cross was dummied through by Fredrik Mathisen and Barone stepped up to finish for the second time, the ball caroming off of the far post and in.
“They started the game brightly,” LeBlanc said. “I thought they had some really good moments on the counter-attack. They’re a good team.”
But the Mountaineers got one back in the 15th minute, as Logan Lucas headed home Andres-Llop’s corner kick.
“I wasn’t worried. I thought we were going to score. We had a lot of the ball early on,” LeBlanc said.
West Virginia had two great chances off of another corner kick in the 26th minute, but shot attempts by Pascal Dewaritsch and Tsubasa Takada were blocked.
LIU Brooklyn goalkeeper Sam Ilin was called upon to parry a long-distance laser by Andres Muriel Albino wide in the 34th minute, and, again, WVU had a shot blocked by Ryan Kellogg off of the ensuing corner kick.
But on the reset, the cross by Piatczyc wasn’t handled cleanly and Takada was there to bury it and tie the score with his first career goal.
“We’ve been there before,” Piatcyzc said after the Mountaineers won for the fifth time this season after conceding the first goal. “Unfortunately, we’ve been there a number of times this season. But we’ve never really panicked.”
“They fought really hard,” Kostecky said. “Soccer, at the end of the day, is about individual battles and, ultimately, the team that wins most of those battles is going to come out ahead. I think you saw that. That’s what happened on those corner kicks.”
In the final 10 seconds of the half, WVU’s fourth corner kick yielded another chance as Dewaritsch’s low header was gloved by Ilin.
Hansen forced a save out of WVU’s Steven Tekesky in the 55th minute, then Chris Solbakken got an attempt on a header from a corner kick that Tekesky again stopped.
Albino put a shot on target in the 62nd minute, then, yes, another corner kick paid off.
This time, it was Ethan Shim getting the first touch on Andres-Llop’s ball from the right flag and Jorge Quintanilla delivering the final blow in the 72nd minute.
“The service was better than it was the last few games,” LeBlanc said. “Credit Albert and Joey with that. It gave our guys an opportunity to get on the end of the ball. They have a young goalkeeper. We thought if our volume was high with dead balls and crosses and really making them have to cover our guys, because they’re a big team with big backs, we thought we could cause them some problems.”
From 2-0 down, West Virginia led, 3-2.
Piatczyc added some much-needed insurance with a well-placed free kick finish in the 81st minute.
Shots were even at 14 for the night, though WVU put eight on target to LIU Brooklyn’s six.