AKRON, Ohio — West Virginia’s senior captain Andy Bevin has suffered his fair share of frustration at the hands of Akron during his collegiate career.
The schools have participated in three regular-season meetings since WVU joined the Mid-American Conference from the Big East in 2012. Akron has eked out a victory each time to leave Bevin and his teammates repeating the same mantra – “We’re good enough to beat these guys.”
Bevin scored twice inside the opening 25 minutes at Akron’s FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field in October to seemingly put West Virginia on the road to its first triumph over the Zips since 1972. The Mountaineers were again left empty-handed when the Ohioans fought back for a pivotal 3-2 win that ultimately handed them a 10th consecutive MAC regular-season title.
New Zealander Bevin hopes for one final chance to smash West Virginia’s hoodoo during this weekend’s MAC Championship before his days in college soccer come to an end. WVU, the No. 2 seed, faces Bowling Green in Friday’s first semi-final with host Akron meeting Western Michigan afterward to determine Sunday’s finalists.
“We let that one slip, eh?” Bevin told The Soccer Observer as he trudged off the field following last month’s painful defeat.
WVU’s game plan had been to press high, squeezing the play into Akron’s half and forcing the Zips defense into loose giveaways that could quickly be turned into scoring opportunities. It worked perfectly at first. Bevin bundled a shot beyond Akron’s Jake Fenlason on 12 minutes. Ryan Cain slid an 18-yard shot agonizingly wide of Fenlason’s left post and Mike Desiderio shot tamely at the goalkeeper when in the clear.
Bevin then deservedly doubled West Virginia’s lead, forcing Zips head coach Jared Embick to substitute out one of his reeling center-backs.
“Maybe the moment of being two-up at Akron got to some of us,” Bevin mused. “We needed to continue what we were doing well by pressurizing them.
“We lost our shape, let them penetrate through our midfield too much and paid the price.”
Games between these sides have been highly entertaining, end-to-end affairs in recent seasons with both teams committed to fast-paced, attacking soccer. Last year’s battle in Morgantown saw Bevin rattling the crossbar as West Virginia failed to claw back an early Reinaldo Brenes goal despite incessant second-half pressure.
The 2012 league meeting in Ohio saw WVU head coach Marlon LeBlanc plotting to get current Oklahoma City Energy F.C. midfielder Peabo Doue into 1-vs-1 situations against then Zips right-back DeAndre Yedlin. Doue burned past his opponent time and again, prompting Caleb Porter to withdraw Yedlin early in the second half. Yet the Mountaineers still came up short after Scott Caldwell’s game winner sneaked a 2-1 Akron victory.
Another contest on Sunday afternoon is by no means guaranteed. Bowling Green has put together a 4-game winning streak since falling to a late 2-1 defeat in Morgantown on Oct. 25. Western Michigan shocked the Zips with a 1-0 win in Akron that same day.
“Hopefully we get another chance to play them,” Bevin said. “We’ve shown that we can definitely compete.”
Oct. 18, 2014 — West Virginia Downed At Akron After Holding Early Two-Goal Lead
Sept. 12, 2014 — UC Irvine Weathers Late Push To Edge Tentative WVU
Sept. 30, 2013 — Akron Edges West Virginia In Mid-American Conference Clash