Men Advance To Finals

A rare defensive battle for West Virginia turned into a thrilling shootout victory for the Mountaineers against Rutgers in the semifinals of the Big East men's soccer tournament.

Following scoreless regulation, first and second overtime periods, the Mountaineers and Scarlet Knights advanced to a shootout to determine the outcome, and West Virginia's superior goalkeeping was the key in the 4-2 win. Conference keeper of the year Nick Noble turned aside two of Rutgers' four chances to deliver the top-seeded West Virginians to the Sunday final against St. John's.

WVU's Andy Wright opened the shootout with a score, and Rutgers' Nick LaBrocca answered. West Virginia's Andrew Halsell then scored on a ball that was tipped by Scarlet Knight keeper Matt VanOekel, and Noble gave WVU an advantage with a save against Bart Koffeman. WVU's Pat Carrol put the Mountaineers up 3-1, but his tally was answered by Michael Crowley, which drew the Knights to within one.

Paul Cunningham reapplied the pressure with another successful kick to put WVU up 4-2, and Noble then sewed things up with his second save, this time against Kyle Grato to put the Mountaineers in the finals.

West Virginia played the final 20 mninutes of regulation and the overtimes a man down after a red card against Dan Stratford. However, WVU was able to rely on its defense, and the outstanding play of Noble, to stay in the game until the overtime shootout.

"Nick Noble is not only the most underrated, but maybe the best, goalkeeper in the country," said WVU head coach Marlon LeBlanc after his team's thrilling victory. "Rutgers is a great team and is very deserving of an NCAA tournament bid. We were fortunate to come out on top at the end of the day."

WVU advances to play St. John's in the championship game at noon on Sunday, Nov. 4. The match will be broadcast live on several outlets, including Fox Sports Net, New York (Live); Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) (Live); FSN Pittsburgh (Live); Comcast SportsNet, Philadelphia (Live); Cox Sports Television (New England) (Live); CSTV (Delay, November 6, 4:00 p.m.); Comcast SportsNet Chicago (Delay, November 6, 1:30 a.m. CT); Catch 47 (Tampa) (Delay, November 9, 9:00 p.m.) and Insight Channel 2 (Louisville) (Delay, November 9, 11:00 p.m.).

The two teams did not face each other during the regular season. WVU is 15-1-2 and won the regular season Blue Division of the Big East with a 9-0-1 mark. St. John's finished third in the Red Division at 5-4-2.

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