WVU Men's Soccer

Piatczyc's free kick lifts WVU in Backyard Brawl

Mountaineers resume MAC play Friday, can clinch conference title

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - In a tight soccer match, set pieces can tip the scale in favor of either team.

Tuesday night, a confidently struck free kick by WVU redshirt senior Joey Piatczyc made the difference for the Mountaineers in a 2-1 win over Pitt.

“Anytime I see that ball dead anywhere around that 18-yard box, my eyes light up,” said Piatczyc.

The midfielder from Lee’s Summit, Missouri said he practices free kicks two or three times a week with his teammates. His head coach Marlon LeBlanc said Piatczyc even worked on free kicks in the hours leading up to the match.

“The kid’s big time,” said LeBlanc. “He’s a pro. He’s gonna be a pro next year, and I think you saw his class.”

Leading 1-0 in the 49th minute, Piatczyc stepped up confidently to take a direct kick right in his sweet spot – just outside the penalty area, to the right of the goal – and curled his shot past the keeper.

“Me and [junior] Albert [Andres-Llop] almost went rock, paper, scissors for it because we practice so much, and we both have so much trust in each other that we can put the ball where it needs to go,” said Piatczyc. “Today, it was just sitting on an angle that was better for me than it was for him, and I’m just fortunate that it went in.”

Piatczyc also assisted Josh DiMatteo’s opening goal, brining his program-record career assist total to 31. As soon as Piatczyc struck that match-winning free kick, it seemed his teammates had already begun celebrating the goal that doubled West Virginia’s lead over its rival. But LeBlanc thought the Mountaineers did too much celebrating.

Thirty seconds after the free kick goal, Pitt responded with a tally by Alexander Dexter to make it 2-1, forcing the Mountaineers to clamp down over the final 40 minutes to win.

Though disappointed by that brief lapse, LeBlanc said the way the Mountaineers closed out their ninth win in 11 tries proved they’re hitting their stride.

“I was disappointed we gave away the goal, but I was really proud of the way we responded after conceding,” said LeBlanc. “We put more pressure on them, we created more chances and we really shut it down.”

With the victory, WVU clinched its first 11-win season since 2014, and now turns its attention Friday’s clash with Bowling Green. A win for the Mountaineers in that game would lock up the regular season MAC title.

“I still think we have another level we can go to. A championship level,” said LeBlanc. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to win on our home field Friday night. There’s no doubt about it: We’re playing our best soccer at the right time of year, and we’re getting better down the stretch.”

Watch full postgame interviews with LeBlanc and Piatczyc: 

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