WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – The West Liberty University men’s soccer team scored two goals within a 16-second span early in the first half and never looked back in rolling to a rain-shortened 4-1 victory against West Virginia Wesleyan College Thursday afternoon at the West Liberty Soccer Complex.
A heavy thunderstorm forced a stoppage in play in the 80th minute. Following a delay, officials and coaches agreed to end the match at that point in the interest of safety for all concerned.
The win completed a season sweep of the Bobcats (2-7-2, 2-7-0) for Coach Thomas Olivier’s Hilltoppers (3-7-0, 3-6-0), who handed Wesleyan a 1-0 setback last month in their first meeting.
A year after winning the Mountain East Conference tournament by upsetting Charleston — the eventual national champions — Wesleyan has struggled to find a rhythm this year, a problem compounded by a raft of injuries to key players. Matthew Bentley missed much of the early season, and midfielder Luca Falconieri just returned Thursday after an injury sidelined him for a few games.
Overall, the ‘Cats are just 2-7-2 on the season, and things don’t get any easier with games against Charleston and Notre Dame next on the docket.
On Thursday, West Liberty wasted no time taking control of the match with its early scoring burst.
In the sixth minute, WLU’s offensive pressure forced a corner kick and Gerardo Sarmiento served a perfect ball to the far post where Alan Fischman nodded it into the top left corner.
Hilltopper forward Waleed Cherif made it 2-0 just 16 seconds later when he took advantage of a Wesleyan turnover off the ensuing kickoff.
The speedy Cherif darted into the 18 and ripped a drive past Bobcat keeper Alex Rittenhouse to double the West Liberty advantage.
There was no further scoring in the opening half and rain began to fall as the Hilltoppers took that 2-0 edge into the second 45-minute period.
Jack Osborne made it 3-0 West Liberty in the 55th minute when he finished off an assist from Chaz Rodeheaver and the match began to open up.
The Bobcats used a set piece to get on the board in the 66th minute as Bentley scored off a LFaconieri corner kick, but the Hilltoppers weren’t going to let this one slip away.
Rodeheaver shook Tyler Swafford free with a nice through ball and Swafford closed out the scoring with an excellent finish in the 78th minute.
Officials were forced to send the players off the pitch less than two minutes later due to NCAA lightning protocol, leading to the end of the match.
West Liberty outshot the Bobcats by a 12-8 margin and Florian Dupuis had three saves to earn the win in goal.
Wesleyan will head to No. 5 Charleston on Sunday and then return to Buckhannon to host Notre Dame in a big MEC matchup a week later. That Oct. 14 game is set to kick off at 1 p.m.