Men's Soccer Opens NCAA Play

West Virginia's men's soccer team plays host to Virginia tonight at 7 p.m. at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium in the second round of the NCAA soccer tournament.

The No. 15-rated Mountaineers (13-5-2) are seeded 15th in the tournament and received a first round bye. UVA (12-7-2) defeated St. Peter's 3-1 on Friday, Nov. 23, to advance to the second round. The winner of the match will face the winner of Furman/Wake Forest in the Sweet 16 this weekend. The Mountaineers will enter the match without the services of senior defender Paul Cunningham, who will miss the contest with an aggravated hamstring. Cunningham will likely be replaced by sophomore Alex Erwin. The sophomore from Batavia, Ill., has adequate experience, having started 11 games this season.

"He's got a strained hamstring and he is having some problems putting some weight on it at the moment so he will be out," West Virginia head coach Marlon LeBlanc said. Things happen. We're a team. That's the whole point of having a team so we'll try to figure something out to make do. Erwin has started a lot of games for us this year and it looks like we will probably move (Jason) Bristol over to left back to handle that side of things, but I think we've got the strength in the squad that we will be OK."

The Cavaliers come to Morgantown dealing with some injury problems of their own. There has been speculation that junior forward Yannick Reyering is hurt and will not play. The German native leads UVA with 13 goals.

"They are not as open as we are. Cunningham is out and with Reyering you have no idea," LeBlanc said. "Whether he plays or not is immaterial. We have the strength in the squad that regardless I think we'll be OK."

The second-year Mountaineer mentor believes the layoff from the end of the Big East tournament to the start of NCAA play has helped the rest of his team get healthy and allowed them time to work on some weaknesses.

"For the most part I think we were able to get our legs back and get a little bit stronger," LeBlanc said. "We were able to clear our heads from the PKs (in the loss to Louisville) and we worked on that a lot."

When asked to describe the challenge that Virginia presents, LeBlanc gave a tongue-in-cheek response when describing the ACC power from Charlottesville, Va. "What don't they have? It's UVA. They've got more scholarships. They've got better coaches, they've got better players and they've got better facilities," LeBlanc said. "All we have is what we have here. Certainly Virginia is going to be a heck of a challenge for us. We are not going to go into this game fearing them by any means. We are 2-0 against the ACC this year. If we're fortunate enough to win and we have to go to Wake Forest next we have been in some tough environments this year. There is no style or environment that we haven't been tested in already this year and I think that's going to help us make a nice little run in the tournament."

WVU returns to the national tournament for the third consecutive year and 10th time in program history. This is the second straight year the Mountaineers have been seeded - both under LeBlanc. The Mountaineers are looking to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history. All WVU students will be admitted to the game free of charge with a valid ID. Tickets for adults are $7, tickets for youth and students are $5 each.


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