MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Despite scoring the game’s first goal, the WVU men’s soccer team fell 3-2 to No. 9 UC Irvine on Thursday evening at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium.
The loss is the second straight for the Mountaineers, who fall to 3-2 overall, while the Anteaters stay a perfect 4-0. UC Irvine held the shot advantage at 16-10, and each team took eight corner kicks.
“We were tentative in the first half and we didn’t play soccer. We got turned over too much,” coach Marlon LeBlanc said. “We had a little talk at halftime and we fixed it. The problem was that they’re too good of a team to spot a two-goal lead and try to get back into it.
“We did get back into it, I was really proud of the way we played in the second half. If not for a little bit of better execution on the final pass in the final third, we may get a few more chances. I thought we played pretty well in the second half.”
West Virginia took a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute with senior Andy Bevin’s third goal of the season. Junior Ryan Cain brought the ball up the right side of the field and sent a cross to the opposite side of the goal for freshman Joey Piatczyc, who chested the ball to a diving Bevin, and Bevin headed it over the UC Irvine goalkeeper.
UC Irvine did not take much time to tie it up and Eduardo Calzada notched a goal in the 24th minute. Gerardo Gonzalez sent a centering cross for a header from Calzada past WVU sophomore goalkeeper Brent Arnold.
Calzada gave UC Irvine the go-ahead 2-1 lead in the 36th minute on a loose ball in front of the WVU net. Arnold was unable to gather the ball and Calzada poked it in from a few feet away.
The Anteaters added an insurance goal in the 38th minute following a corner kick. Gor Kirakosyan sent the ball to the near side of the goal and it was redirected to far side, where Thomas Janjigian sent it to Dennis Martinez for an easy header right in front of the net.
Junior Jamie Merriam scored his fourth goal in as many games in the 56th minute, cutting the UC Irvine lead to 3-2. Following a restart at midfield, junior Haydon Bennett played a free kick to Bevin. Bevin completed a back heel pass to Merriam, who ripped a shot past the goalkeeper from the right side.
“I think we were a little shell-shocked and then didn’t fight our way back into the game until we made adjustments at halftime,” LeBlanc said. “We also didn’t play well enough in the first half. We didn’t keep the ball long enough, we didn’t tackle well enough, but I thought in the second half it was a night and day change for us. We moved the ball, we held the possession and we turned them over a bunch.”
Freshman Jad Arslan nearly tied the game in the 62nd minute but could not beat the UC Irvine goalkeeper to the ball after a great through ball.
Cain drew a foul in the 74th minute, leading to a free kick at the top of the box. Bevin took the free kick and put the in-swinger just wide of the far post.
Bevin and Merriam took four shots and three shots, respectively, to lead WVU. Calzada had five shots for UC Irvine, all on frame.
The Mountaineers now hit the road for three-consecutive games, beginning with a trip to Elon on Sunday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m. A link to live stats is available on WVUsports.com.