WVU beats Fairfield, 1-0

Jyler Noviello's right-to-left shot beat Fairfield keeper Jon Paul Francini with 12 minutes left in the first half for the lone goal as West Virginia won its opener 1-0 Friday at Dick Dlesk Stadium.

The Mountaineers, under first-year head coach Marlon LeBlanc, dominated the Stags for the first 45 minutes, but pushed across just the shot from Noviello off an assist from fleet-footed midfielder Mike Anoia. The junior made several solid runs in the first half, and his last provided the difference as he drew the defender before dumping the ball to a streaking Noviello, who had an easy shot-on-goal, the second of WVU's three SOGs on the night.

"We train possession and we got out every single day and do that under pressure," LeBlanc said. "I thought we lost that a bit at the end of the second half when we stopped passing the ball around. In order to get behind a team that packs in, you have to keep it and draw them out and that's how we were able to get our first goal. We played one in big behind them, and it was a great goal."

Fairfield finished with just two SOGs, and seemed outmanned at the start as the Mountaineers had an estimated 75 percent possession rate in the first half. That total dropped in the second, when WVU tried to tire the Stags' left back with several long passes, deliberately getting away from its crisp offensive sets in the opening 45 minutes. That led to several one-on-one match-ups along the sideline, something LeBlanc thought played to West Virginia's favor despite its perceived ugliness.

"That's what was on," he said. "I told those guys that we would be prepared for anything. We will play what is on, and that ball was on. We hit that big diagonal ball, and that's where we got the ball. (Anoia) ran him tired. It's not always going to work, but that was what was on in this situation."

It was Noviello's first goal in two seasons. He did not score last year. Anoia recorded his first assists in two years as well. The Mountaineers, who have just four seniors, started just two upperclassmen, but frequently substituted, playing six subs.

"We tried to weaken the left back," said Anoia, who continually made runs to the spot. "It worked for a bit, and we tired him out, but we wanted to get away from that some and we got into that too much during the game. But we got the result, so we are happy about that."

West Virginia finished with edges in total shots (12-5), corners (7-4) and fewer fouls (19-14). Keeper Nick Noble recorded his 27th career save, one shy of the school record. The Mountaineers had many more chances to score, but many crosses and kicks off set pieces went long, especially those going from right-to-left in the first half. LeBlanc said that was due to the use of a new ball, which arrived just before the game.

The Mountaineers did noticeably slack in the second half, perhaps a product of their defensive mindset under former coach Mike Seabolt. LeBlanc is having WVU shoot more in practice, and, having worked with the team for just 11 days, notes that time will eventually cure any purely defensive play.

"You could see it a bit, couldn't you?" LeBlanc said. "We got the goal, then digressed a bit. That's the part that disappointed me. I want our guys to go for it. That first goal should have opened up a tidal wave of other goals to come. We had a number of chances where we just didn't put the ball away. You could see them sit back. But we will get better. There is a great saying: History doesn't remember good football. It remembers champions. In the end, we got the result, we attacked and we got the shutout, and I think people enjoyed the brand of soccer that we played."

LeBlanc inserted senior Matt Anstey for Beckley, W.Va. native Chase DeWese, a freshman, at right midfield midway through the second half when West Virginia began to back off its offensive punch. Anstey, a senior, teamed with Chris Wittig to shore up some defensive problems on the right side, and Fairfield struggled to control the area again. DeWese's attacking style was somewhat counterproductive to LeBlanc's effort to settle the game with 30 minutes left.

Freshman center mid Gift Maworere cramped for part of the game, and didn't push as far up the field – not much past the mid-stripe, in fact – for much of the second half. He made a costly error when he exchanged words with Fairfield forward Mike Troy and drew a red card for suspension with just 18 seconds left. He must sit out the next game, Sunday's contest versus Buffalo, which beat Pitt 2-1 tonight.

WVU faces Buffalo at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, following the Pitt-Fairfield contest at 1 p.m.

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