The West Virginia University men’s soccer team begins the season still trying to figure out who the right man is to play keeper for the Mountaineers in 2016.
By Ryan Decker
Heading into the 2016 season, West Virginia University men’s soccer coach Marlon LeBlanc had some decisions on his hand.
His top two goal scorers from last year both graduated, as did each of his two goal keepers who split the time down the middle; each appearing in 13 games. In each case, it’s important to find the correct replacement early in the season.
West Virginia’s offense tallied a pair of goals in each of their two pre-season games. Meanwhile, in the same contests, the trio of players auditioning for the starting keeper role held opponents Pittsburgh and the University of Charleston off the scoreboard.
Junior Jose Santos and redshirt-junior Stephen Banick split time in goal against the Panthers, while Konrad Dziedzic played the entire 90 minutes against Charleston.
“If you’re looking at the shutout, that’s always most important when it comes to goal keepers, so we’ll take the shutout,” a smiling LeBlanc said about Dziedzic after Tuesday’s win. “He’s a young goal keepr; hasn’t had very many minutes yet. But he had a very good spring, which also gets put into consideration when you’re grading your goalkeeper. It was an A++ tonight getting the shutout for us.”
With Santos, Banick, and Dziedzic not conceding any goals, the players left it up to LeBlanc to make the decision of who would get the nod for Friday’s season opener on the road against No. 14 Seattle in Akron, Ohio.
LeBlanc decided to go with Santos, who transferred to WVU after playing a crucial role on a Tyler Community College team that made it to the NJCAA finals.
Santos and the Mountaineers didn’t have the luck they had in the preseason.
Although the Mountaineers outshot Seattle, and took one more shot on goal, it was the Redhawks that twice were able to find the back of the net, registering a 2-0 victory.
“You take a look at the game, and we traded punch-for-punch with them,” LeBlanc told reporters after the game. “We gave up two goals on three shots, and their goalkeeper made four saves. We were there. We gave up that late goal in the first half, which was kind of a backbreaker. At the end of the day, we have to look at ourselves and say ‘Where can we find goals,’ because we had more shots, more opportunities and a lot of set pieces.”
Santos had better fortune Sunday against seventh-ranked Georgetown, as he and the Mountaineer defense held the Hoyas scoreless the entire way.
In fact, the WVU defense was so good Sunday, that none of the three shots Georgetown were able to get off were on goal, making it a fairly easy day for Santos. Meanwhile, the WVU offense tallied 13 shots, seven on goal, and one off the foot of Tucker Stephenson found the back of the net.
The game’s lone goal occurred in the 81st minute. It ended up being all WVU needed in the 1-0 victory.
With the win, the Mountaineers (1-1) earned their first win of the season, and Santos earned his first win in a WVU uniform.
WVU begins the home portion of its schedule Saturday at 7 p.m. against Princeton.