Freshman midfielder Luke McCormick’s 86th-minute goal helped the West Virginia University men’s soccer team to a 1-0 win over Bowling Green in the 2019 Mid-American Conference Championship Final on Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium in Akron, Ohio.
The victory marked the Mountaineers’ first-ever MAC Tournament title, and it clinched a berth into the NCAA Tournament. McCormick scored on a header goal off a deflection to give WVU the late lead and eventual win.
“What a credit to my kids,” WVU coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “What a credit to the resilience, the fight and the character for us to go from where we’ve been to where we are now. That’s a testament to the character and the championship mentality of this team.
“I’d be remised if I didn’t thank the fans that came out to support us and all the people that have stuck by us all through the season. We played for so much more than just ourselves today.”
After earning the MAC’s automatic bid, the Mountaineers will compete in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season and 14th time in program history. Sunday’s win was the third in six days for the Mountaineers, who entered the MAC Championship as the No. 6 seed.
WVU (9-8-2) nearly scored just seconds into the match when sophomore forward Josh DiMatteo had a chance right in front of goal. However, the effort was saved by the No. 4-seeded Falcons’ goalkeeper.
Later, sophomore midfielder Pau Jimenez Albelda got a look inside the box but the shot was deflected away. The two teams combined for just three shot attempts in the opening 30 minutes of the match.
In the 38th minute, junior goalkeeper Steven Tekesky was forced to come off his line to stop a charging Falcon attacker. The Raymore, Missouri, native used a diving effort, allowing his teammates time to recover and clear the ball away.
The match remained scoreless at the half.
In the second half, WVU fought off another dangerous chance by BGSU when senior defender Albert Andres-Llop blocked a shot in front of goal. Then, the Falcons nailed a shot off the post in the 68th minute.
Four minutes later, Tekesky went to work again, tipping a Bowling Green header away. The Mountaineer keeper made three saves in the shutout win and was named Tournament MVP.
In the 83rd minute, West Virginia made yet another big defensive stop. Senior defender Logan Lucas headed a ball off the line for the squad’s second team save of the day. That led to McCormick’s goal, which began with a cross into the box from junior midfielder Tsubasa Takada.
DiMatteo threw an initial header at the entrance that was deflected straight into the air by a BGSU defender. From there, McCormick found himself in perfect position to bury the game-winning goal and put WVU in front, 1-0.
The tally was McCormick’s second of the season.
Moments later, celebration ensued as the Mountaineers finished off their MAC Tournament title victory. The win marked WVU’s fifth consecutive win at FirstEnergy Stadium in Akron, dating back to a 1-0 win over then-No. 7 Georgetown on Aug. 28, 2016.
Bowling Green (13-7-1) outshot WVU, 10-6, including 5-3 in shots on goal. The Falcons also held a 7-4 edge in corner kicks. DiMatteo led WVU with two shots and earned the game-winning assist.
With the win, WVU improved to 7-0 on the season when scoring first. It also marked the program’s first conference tournament championship since 1992.
“It’s been a crazy week,” LeBlanc said. “Along the way, you just got a special feeling of where we were going and what we were doing. It’s been a wild ride, but this team never wavered.”
Along with Tekesky, DiMatteo, McCormick and senior midfielder Ryan Kellogg were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Next, the Mountaineers will learn their NCAA Tournament fate during the NCAA Men’s Soccer Selection Show on Monday, Nov. 18, at 1 p.m. ET. The show will be aired on NCAA.com.