MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The back-to-back Atlantic 10 Champion Xavier Musketeers will take on West Virginia for the second straight year in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at 5 p.m. ET from Dick Dlesk Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va.
Xavier earned a spot in the 48-team tournament for the second season by beating the top three seeds in the league’s tournament last weekend. The sixth-seeded Musketeers knocked off nationally-ranked and third-seed Charlotte and top-seeded Fordham, before advancing in penalty kicks against second-seed George Washington.
The Musketeers opened the tournament by defeating No. 8 Charlotte, 2-1, in overtime with junior forward Luke Spencer and redshirt freshman Will Walker scoring for Xavier. Center backs Nick Hagglund and James Queree tallied scores in the Musketeers’ 2-0 victory over Fordham the following day. Freshman Garrett Halfhill scored the equalizer sending the championship match to penalty kicks, which Xavier would take 4-3.
Thursday’s game will be the fifth meeting between Xavier and West Virginia. Xavier won the initial meeting in 1987, but has lost the last four meeting with the Mountaineers. This will be the second time the schools have met on the national stage.
The Musketeers built a 2-0 lead just five minutes into last’s year match against the Mountaineers on an own goal and Queree’s header. West Virginia rallied to score four unanswered goals to advance.
Spencer (7g, 5a) had a goal and an assist in the league tournament giving him a team-high 19 points. Sophomore midfielder Gino DePaoli (5g, 7a) became just the fifth player in A-10 postseason history to record three assist. Both Spencer and DePaoli, along with Queree and sophomore Adar Cohen, were named to the A-10 All-Championship Team.
Xavier’s offense has a five-game scoring streak that includes eight goals. They are averaging 1.5 goals per game while attempting 14.9 each match.
Defense has been the driving force for the Musketeers’ return trip to the NCAA Tournament. With eight shutouts to its credit, Xavier has held opponents to a 0.80 goals against average, which ranks 26th in the nation. Goalkeeper Justin Marshall has a 0.83 goals against average on the season and has given up 17 goals this season.
West Virginia received an at-large bid for the second straight season after being defeated by eventual BIG EAST tournament champion St. John’s in the league’s quarterfinals.
The Mountaineers (10-6-1, 6-3-0 BIG EAST) have faced one of the toughest schedules in the nation this season, battling eight nationally-ranked opponents. West Virginia has wins over No. 1 Connecticut, No. 11 Virginia, No. 13 Georgetown, and No. 12 Notre Dame to their credit.
West Virginia has two prominent goal scorers - Shadow Sebele and Andy Bevin - leading its attack. Sebele has six goals and seven assists while Bevin has a team-high seven goals and two assists. The Mountaineers average 1.33 goals per match.
Defensively the Mountaineers have eight shutouts and hold opponents to a goal a game. Pat Eavenson has been the starting goalkeeper in the last three matches for the Mountaineers. He started the first four matches before giving way to Justin Holmes, and has a goals against average of 1.14 and three shutouts.