MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The WVU men’s soccer team defeated Niagara, 2-0, in dominant fashion on Friday evening at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
The Mountaineers (5-4) finished with a season-high 25 shots, while the defense held the Purple Eagles to just four shots, a season low for an opponent.
“We needed to speed it up and I thought in the second half we did that,” coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “It got a lot faster and they really had to chase a lot harder. In the first half they were able to sit in their shape and keep things in front of them. We went backwards and sideways too much; in the second half we went forward.”
Junior midfielder Jamie Merriam notched his sixth goal of the season and took 10 shots with four on frame. The last player to take at least 10 shots in a contest was Keith Gispert, who finished with 10 shots in a 0-0 tie with Canisius in 1995.
“It was a little frustrating in the first half because we moved the ball and it seemed a little too easy,” Merriam said. “We could move it slower than normal, but the message from Marlon was to speed it up and if we raised the energy level that they wouldn’t be able to keep up. That’s what we did.”
After controlling possession throughout the match, WVU was finally able to break through the Niagara defense in the 64th minute. Freshman midfielder Joey Piatczyc intercepted a Niagara pass about 25 yards away from goal and spotted a streaking Merriam. Piatczyc was able to cross the ball into the box for Merriam, who broke through his defender and easily put the shot past goalkeeper Steve Casey.
The Mountaineers doubled the lead to 2-0 in the 76th minute by way of an own goal. Merriam was along the goal line and sent a cross to the middle of the field that hit off a Niagara defender and past Casey.
Senior goalkeeper Lee Johnston picked up his first victory of the season by way of shutout, having to only make one save.
WVU’s first chance came in the 26th minute when freshman midfielder Jad Arslan took a shot from deep that went just wide of the left post.
Arslan was busy creating chances as well, playing a pass to freshman forward Tolu Ibikunle in the 34th minute. Ibikunle was unable to get a good shot off and Niagara goalkeeper Steve Casey made the easy save.
In the 42nd minute, sophomore midfielder Christian Diaz blasted a shot at Casey, who was able to punch it over the net.
West Virginia will hit the road for a match at No. 5 New Mexico on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 9 p.m. ET. For links to live stats and a video stream of the match, visit WVUsports.com. Fans can follow the action through social media by following @WVUMensSoccer on Twitter.