The West Virginia University men’s soccer team begins NCAA Tournament play by traveling to Butler on Thursday, Nov. 21, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The first-round matchup at the Sellick Bowl is set for 6 p.m. ET.
“This is a very exciting opportunity for our team,” WVU coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “These last few days have been about refocusing ourselves and preparing for an extremely talented Butler team. Any time you have to go on the road, especially in the NCAA Tournament, it’s tough. Butler’s ability and success at home makes this an even bigger challenge for us.”
WVU (9-8-2) is in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season and 14th time in program history. The squad earned the Mid-American Conference’s automatic bid after defeating Bowling Green, 1-0, in the MAC Championship Final on Nov. 17, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Akron, Ohio. The win marked WVU’s first-ever MAC Tournament title and its first conference tournament championship since winning the Atlantic 10 in 1992.
The Mountaineers have now qualified for the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2010-11. In all, LeBlanc has led six teams to the national tournament at WVU (2019, 2018, 2011, 2010, 2007, 2006).
WVU is 6-13 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, the Mountaineers topped LIU Brooklyn, 4-2, in the first round at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in Morgantown, before falling at then-No. 13 Georgetown, 1-0, in the second round at Shaw Field in Washington, D.C.
Thursday’s match marks the first meeting between the Mountaineers and Bulldogs (11-6-2). WVU is 52-51-5 all-time against current members of the Big East Conference.
Last time out, freshman midfielder Luke McCormick’s 86th minute goal proved to be the difference in WVU’s 1-0 win over Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Final on Nov. 17. McCormick found himself in perfect positioning after sophomore forward Josh DiMatteo had a ball deflected into the air off a defender inside the box. McCormick used his head to find the back of the net, marking his first career game-winning goal.
Junior goalkeeper Steven Tekesky made three saves in the win, while his back line combined for an additional two team saves to maintain the clean sheet. The Raymore, Missouri, native was named the Tournament MVP and was joined on the All-Tournament Team by DiMatteo, McCormick and senior midfielder Ryan Kellogg.
The victory was the third in a six-day span for the Mountaineers, who became the first No. 6 seed to win the MAC Tournament.
Freshman forward Rodrigo Robles Grajera leads West Virginia with seven goals this season, good for a tie for No. 2 in the MAC. McCormick’s team-leading seven assists also are tied for No. 2 in the conference, while Tekesky leads the MAC with six shutouts and ranks No. 3 in the league in saves per game (3.0).
WVU is 7-0 when scoring first this season and 6-0 when leading at halftime. The Mountaineers also are 6-1 when scoring two or more goals this season.
Butler is led by ninth-year coach Paul Snape, who holds a mark of 81-63-2 with the Bulldogs. The squad is coming off a penalty-kick loss to No. 2 Georgetown in the Big East Tournament Semifinals on Nov. 13.
Butler is making its ninth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first since 2017. The Bulldogs scored an at-large bid into the tournament and are one of three Big East teams to qualify.
BU, which is 7-2-1 at home this season, is led by senior forward Brandon Guhl, who has a team-leading nine goals. Sophomore midfielder Jack Haywood has registered nine assists in 2019, which is tied for No. 10 nationally.
Freshman forward Wilmer Cabrera Jr. was named the Big East Freshman of the Year after tallying 19 points (8G, 3A) for the Bulldogs in the regular season. In goal, sophomore goalkeeper Gabriel Gjergji has made 83 saves, good for No. 11 in the country.
The winner of Thursday’s first-round match will advance to play at No. 11 Marshall in the second round on Sunday, Nov. 24, in Huntington, West Virginia.